Local troops get rousing welcome home from Mideast
Vanessa Juarez (center) and her brother Leonardo Juarez (bottom right) welcome home their brother Sgt. Edgar Campos at the North Riverside Armory on Friday. (Keri Wiginton, Chicago Tribune / September 15, 2011)
Several hundred family and friends waiting at the North Riverside Armory -– many holding welcome signs -- began screaming with joy as the soldiers made their way off three buses that were escorted by local area law enforcement officials and a motorcycle organization.
Mobilized in September 2010, the 1244th Transportation Company was the first unit from Illinois to be deployed as part of Operation New Dawn in Iraq. About 75 other soldiers deployed as part of the 1244th also arrived at other bases throughout the state, including in Springfield, East St. Louis and Paris.
“This is overwhelming for me,” said Specialist Sergio Munguia, who was teary-eyed after receiving a big hug from his 2-year-old son. “I haven’t seen him [my son] in a year. I can’t wait to spend time with him.”
Wesley Anderson, chief of staff for the Illinois Army National Guard, told the soldiers and their families to be proud. “Thank you for the mission you accomplished,” said Anderson. “These soldiers could not do what they do without the support of their families.”
Carol Stream resident Debbie Campus, 56, came to the ceremony to see her son, Sgt. Joe Campus, 30, return and was all tears as she hugged him.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Debbie Campus. “I am so proud of him.”
An Army official said it is unclear if the soldiers would be deployed again, but added that the Army usually makes them serve about one year overseas for every five years at home. The 1244th was replaced in theater by the Illinois Army National Guard’s 1644th Transportation Company from Rock Falls.
The mission of the 1244th included hauling cargo throughout Iraq and Kuwait during the past 10 months. The unit completed approximately 220 convoy missions totaling more than 3.8 million miles and moved approximately 170 million pounds of cargo with no casualties.
Operation New Dawn began in 2010 when U.S. officials declared the end of combat operations in Iraq. During the operation, U.S. forces remain in the country primarily to advise and assist.