After nearly a year-long deployment to Kuwait, Sgt. 1st Class Reginald Dawson of the Ohio Army National Guard returned as a hero to his family, and during Saturday's welcome-home ceremony, a human jungle gym.
As the Sylvania Township father knelt down in his light-green fatigues, his young children rushed to hug daddy.
Soon he had 7-year-old Spencer bobbing on his knee, 2-year-old Claire running in circles, and 4-year-old Owen absolutely intrigued with his uniform collar and name tag.
"It's the second time he has been deployed, so they have really missed him a lot," his wife, Jill Dawson, said. "It's good to have him home."
Members of Ohio Army National Guard s 1st Battalion, 148th Infantry are at attention as their return gets hearty cheers.
There was much embracing and shedding of tears yesterday during the ceremony at Owens Community College as about 170 members of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 148th Infantry Regiment, returned home in time for Christmas.
The regiment, based at the Tracy Road armory in Walbridge, deployed in early January as part of the 37th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
The deployment of 1,600 troops, known as the Buckeye Brigade, was the largest single-unit deployment of Ohio National Guard troops since World War II.
Cindy Cousino of Temperance beamed with pride yesterday over her son, Spec. James Lingle, 21, a 2005 graduate of Bedford High School, who returned from his first overseas deployment.
"We were not expecting him before Feb. 14, so to have him home for Christmas is just everything," she said.
"It's the bow on the present," added Kent Cousino, one of 19 family members and friends in Mr. Lingle's welcoming party who donned bright yellow smiley-face T-shirts with his name on the back.
A few guardsmen, including Staff Sgt. Bryan Corn, 22, will be spending a first Christmas with newborns at home.
Jerry Copes of Miamisburg, Ohio, a retired Army 1st sergeant, welcomes his son-in-law, 1st Sgt. Shawn Hayslett.
"This Christmas is amazing," said Sergeant Corn, of Mishawaka, Ind., with his wife, Terika, and their 3-month-old daughter. "We [guardsmen] knew that we were going to be home sometime around the holidays, but we weren't really sure when."
An estimated crowd of 2,000 filled the gymnasium in the college's Student Health and Activities Center in Perrysburg Township, where it was announced that every member of the Buckeye Brigade is returning.
"Everybody came back safe, and no major combat injuries," Guard Spokesman James Sims said. "That is pretty amazing when you think of all the things they were asked to do."
While deployed to Kuwait, the troops took part in many security patrols, convoy escorts, and other missions inside of Iraq, with some spending time in Baghdad.
Gregory Wayt, Ohio's adjutant general, welcomed the guardsmen home and thanked their families for their support.
"This battalion had one of the most dangerous missions inside this brigade," he said. "They truly have written another proud chapter in the history of the Ohio National Guard."
U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) also commended the soldiers and their families.
"America welcomes you home at this holiday season. You are the most important Christmas present," Miss Kaptur said.
The troops departed from Kuwait last week, and following a demobilization process at Fort Hood in Texas, arrived early yesterday morning at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. There they boarded chartered buses for the trip back to northwest Ohio.
At least one family waited to decorate until its soldier was back.
"After this ceremony we're going to go home and get a Christmas tree," said 1st Lt. Nick Rozanski, 32, of Dublin, Ohio.
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