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More than 1,500 family and friends gave a rousing welcome home to soldiers returning to Ohio on Thursday after being deployed in Western Asia for the past year.
The welcome home ceremony for the 130 soldiers from the 323rd Military Police Company was held at Cedar Creek Church in Perrysburg Township. The soldiers, who are enlisted in the Ohio National Guard, were responsible for perimeter security at Camp As Sayliyah, located on the outskirts of the capital city of Doha, Qatar.
Brigadier General John Harris Jr. told the soldiers that they are deserving of the hero's welcome, even if they did not see combat during their deployment.
“There’s been nothing easy about what you’ve done,” General Harris said. “I think you had one of the toughest assignments out there. You had a mission where there wasn’t a defining moment, which means you did your mission successfully.
“What you did for the last few months made the bad guys decide to go somewhere else.”
There was no doubt who was the hero for 6-year-old Emma Keith, of Maumee. She wore a pink T-shirt declaring that her father, returning Staff Sgt. William Keith was hers.
Actually, the words on her shirt read “Waddy is my hero, and I’m his princess.” When Emma was younger, she couldn’t pronounce the word “daddy,” correctly, and the nick-name just sort of stuck, explained her mother, Sara Keith.
When young Emma and her father were finally reunited, no words were necessary. The two just hugged each other tightly for several minutes without speaking.
“It’s been a very emotional day,” Mrs. Keith said. “It’s been a long time since we’ve seen him. We’re just so excited that he’s back.”