|130 Ohio National Guard members back from Qatar|
|Written by JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN Sentinel County Editor|
|Thursday, 02 May 2013 15:28|
When her step-dad, Staff Sgt. William Keith, left their Maumee home last summer, Emma was much shorter and had a full row of front teeth. When they reunited Thursday Emma's big smile had a huge gap.
"She lost her teeth," Keith said as he gave Emma a big hug. SEE MORE PHOTOS
Keith was one of 130 members of the Ohio National Guard 323rd Military Police Company to return after nearly a year providing security at Camp As Saylyah in Qatar.
His wife, Sara Keith, said life without her husband was tough.
"Just holding up our end without him," she said. "Raising a little girl by myself, it was horrible."
But that all vanished when she saw her husband step off the bus.
"It was fabulous. It was so emotional, I wanted to die," she said. "I can't wait to hold hands on the drive home, and eat a dinner together."
Her husband's plans were the same. "I want to spend as much time with the family that I can."
Dressed in their desert fatigues, the National Guard soldiers filed into the welcome ceremony at Cedar Creek Church in Perrysburg Township. Their officers thanked the troops' employers and families back home for letting them serve their nation.
"There's been nothing easy about what you've done," said Assistant Army Brigadier General John Harris. But today was different, he told the troops who were still sitting at attention.
"We're here to celebrate. We're home," Harris said.
While in Qatar, the guard members provided round-the-clock security at the camp, which included staffing several observation towers. They also staffed entry control points at the camp, processing more than 81,000 vehicles during their deployment.
Harris said their deployment was a success because they all came back safely and their "daily diligence" thwarted any attacks.
"Your mission was successful. The bad guys decided to go somewhere else," he said.
"I thank you for stepping up to do your part," Harris said. "You're going to go back to your communities and be rock stars."
Commander Andrew Hawkins said the unit also succeeded in forming better relations with their Qatar counterparts - which previous units had been unable to do.
He credited the troops for achieving all that under some extreme conditions. For 78 days at the camp, the temperature reached more than 100 degrees. "The day we entered Qatar, it was 118 degrees," Hawkins said.
Those left at home, also struggled. Kim Ingram, of Toledo, was there to welcome her daughter, Crystal, back from her fist deployment.
"As a mother, it was probably the hardest thing," Ingram said. "I thought labor was hard, but sending your baby overseas and not knowing" proved much more difficult.
Jerry Westlick, of Elmore, was waiting to see his son, Rajiv Westlick of Fremont. In his arms he held Bristol - Rajiv's daughter - who was just a month old when her dad deployed.
"Everyday they were on skype, but it's not the same," Jerry Westlick said, anxious for his son to see his beautiful baby in her frilly floral dress.
Once home, Rajiv will return to his job as a conductor on the Norfolk-Southern railroad.
Colton Stock, 20, a private first class from Reynoldsburg, was planning to return to his job at Subway.
"Yes mam. I'm happy, though I'm going to miss everyone," Stock said of his guard buddies.
Upon getting home, Stock planned to tackle a tough job.
"I should probably clean my room from all the stuff I sent home to my parents," he said. "Yes mam."
For Sgt. Sara Jensen, of Perrysburg, top on her list to do was getting some shut-eye.
"I want to go take a nap. We've been up for about 24 hours," she said.
But rest might have had to wait, since she had some catching up to do with her sons, Colten, 4, and Josiah, 3, who was clinging to her neck.
"It was rough, just not having them," she said of her time away from her sons.
|Last Updated on Friday, 03 May 2013 10:32|
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