photo credit to Minnesota National Guard
Coming home from a client shopping trip to Minneapolis last night we saw signs on overpasses and dotted down the highway, welcoming home the last of 2,600 Minnesota National Guard soldiers. The Red Bulls were supposed to be gone 18 months, but their deployments were extended. The Red Bulls served longer in combat than any other Minnesota unit since World War II and were the longest-serving U.S. military unit of the Iraq War.
The last contingent of 270 Iraq War veterans arrived on Wednesday. Almost all waited in a single-file line from the plane to again see Sgt. John Kreisel, who was waiting for them on the tarmac. Kreisel lost portions of both legs in a December 2 roadside bombing in Iraq that killed two of his closest friends. He stood waiting on two prosthetic limbs.
Staff Sgt. Tim Nelson,27, of Bemidji, MN couldn't make that long wait in line and jumped ahead of the others. Nelson was sitting in the vehicle behind Kreisel when the explosion occurred and hadn't seen him, since he held his hand for hours in a military hospital.
"It was touch and go," said Nelson, his bottom lip quivering as he recalled the aftermath of the blast, which killed Spc. Bryan McDonough,22, of Maplewood, MN and Spc, Corey Rustad,20, of Red Lake Falls, MN.
Major General Rick Erlandson gave the men their official welcome. He told them the length and quality of their service made history. He told them to remember that, no matter what the critics of the war may say in the future. He also wanted them to know that this experience had changed them and that they may never get back to "normal", but would have to adjust to a "new normal".
Welcome back, Red Bulls - we are grateful to you for your dedication, service and great sacrifice.
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