Heroes welcomed home at Soldier Field

August 3, 2009 2:36:57 PM PDT
After a year in Afghanistan, 180 members of the Illinois National Guard are finally back home in Chicago. Cheering crowds greeted the troops at Soldier Field. Families were patient as Governor Pat Quinn addressed the Chicago-based troops-- from the Illinois Army National Guard Headquarters Co., 1-178th Infantry, 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat team-- during the quick ceremony.

Despite the roar from the crowd, soldiers kept their eyes straight ahead and marched in formation as they waited for that one word-- dismissed. Then, the rush to find loved ones.

"My stomach hurts. My head hurts. I have seven kids and he's the baby," said Josephine Richards, mother of returning soldier. "I'm glad they're all back safe."

Husbands looked for wives, children. Sons looked for their mothers and fathers.

"I am elated. I am overjoyed. My stomach is in knots and I just want to hug him and know he is back at home with his sister and his family," said Cynthia Carter, mother of returning soldier.

"I'm home. I'm back," said Calvin Milton, whose family members wore their pride across their chests with T-shirts.

"It's just a wonderful feeling, you know, to have our loved one back home with us because we miss him so much. We were just worried, we were praying every day that God would bring him home safe. He has done that. Thank you," said Denise Randle, aunt of returning soldier.

"I've never felt anything like this. I feel joyful. I feel joyful, like I'm going to faint. It's just insane. Fabulous," said Robyn Grange, soldier's wife.

As the soldiers reveled in the joy of their homecomings, they remembered those who are still serving in Afghanistan.

"I could get used to being at home. But we have brothers there and I miss them," said Capt. Stephan Toussaint, Illinois National Guard.

They also remembered those who will never come home.

"We think about those guys, that's for sure and their family. I hope they have some comfort in that what they were doing was to help the Afghan people have a better life," said Toussaint.

On Sunday, 135 Illinois soldiers who served in Afghanistan were welcomed home in Kankakee.


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