In Our Voices for Friday — February 03, 2006

Members of Company A, 2nd Battalion, 299th Infantry Regiment of the Hawaii Army National Guard have been filtering home after an 18-month mobilization to active duty status.

The citizen-soldiers were deployed to Iraq for a period of 12 months.

More than 100 reservists from Kaua’i were deployed with the force of over 3,700 that made up the 29th Brigade Combat Team sent to Iraq to police the country after the U.S. invasion that deposed Saddam Hussein. About 2,200 of those members were from Hawai’i.

Improvised explosive devices and armed patrols became their daily routines. One O’ahu member of the 229th Infantry Regiment — another unit in the 29th Brigade Combat Team — gave the ultimate sacrifice when he was killed last July while on a patrol near Baghdad.

Though some of those from Kaua’i suffered injuries both mental and physical, they are all out of Iraq, soon to be home to their families and loved ones. Some are still in O’ahu being demobilized, while four were able to make it to Wilcox Elementary School in Lihu’e Thursday for a welcome home assembly.

No matter what your politics or opinions on the war, the scene at the school Friday would have made the most bitter cynic about the war in Iraq feel a welling of emotion in his or her chest.

At the ceremony, three of the soldiers’ children who attend the school sat on their father’s laps while a flag that had flown over Iraq was donated to the school by the state of Hawai’i. That flag fluttered in the mild tropical breeze among the chattering children.

The soldiers in their fatigues were in stark contrast to the energetic innocence surrounding them. From the battlefield to the schoolyard, the soldiers were home.

The four who attended the ceremony, as well as all those who have returned home, have been returned to National Guard status from Active Duty Soldier status.

Hawaii National Guard Public Affairs officer, Maj. Charles Anthony, said it is highly unlikely that those from Kaua’i will be mobilized again. Anthony said returning the guardsmen to active duty status would take approval from the Secretary of Defense or higher, and is something that the Army isn’t going to do.

So it appears the men and women citizen-soldiers are home. And hopefully for good.

We are glad you are home. Welcome. And mahalo.


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