Iowa soldiers get warm welcome home2168th Transportation Co. back from Afghanistan SHELDON, Iowa — Of the 35 young soldiers welcomed home Friday afternoon in Sheldon, one was looking forward to climbing into a new-to-him BMW, a second soldier was going to be the first to autograph the cast on his 8-year-old daughter’s broken arm, and yet another, well, he had a belly filled with butterflies and a simple little box hiding in his pocket.
By: Julie Buntjer, Worthington Daily Globe
SHELDON, Iowa — Of the 35 young soldiers welcomed home Friday afternoon in Sheldon, one was looking forward to climbing into a new-to-him BMW, a second soldier was going to be the first to autograph the cast on his 8-year-old daughter’s broken arm, and yet another, well, he had a belly filled with butterflies and a simple little box hiding in his pocket.
Nearly two months ago, while serving with his fellow soldiers in the 2168th Transportation Co., in Afghanistan, Spc. Christopher Paine decided to plan a very special homecoming for himself and long-time girlfriend Allison Wernimont of Spencer, Iowa. He found an engagement ring on the Internet, ordered it and had it sent to his mother’s home in northwest Iowa for safekeeping.
On Friday, Paine’s mother met him to hand off the special package and, not long after the soldiers were released to their families, Paine got down on one knee and asked the all-important question.
Wernimont’s shriek of surprise could be heard throughout the great hall of the Northwest Iowa Community College’s Lifelong Learning and Recreation Center in Sheldon.
As she nervously fiddled with the new ring on her finger, Wernimont said the proposal was a complete surprise and the perfect ending to a nearly year-long separation. She and Paine met in the fourth grade while attending school in Spencer.
“It’s been hard — really hard,” she said of their time apart. “Skype became my best friend (while he was gone).”
Skype, Facebook and email all proved integral in keeping the lines of communication open between the soldiers of the 2168th and their families back here at home. Still, it wasn’t the same as having their soldier with them.
Eleven-year-old Zach Broesder was eager to tell his dad, Shawn, hi and give him a hug — something he couldn’t do during the last several months over the computer.
“I want to hang out with him and talk about how it was in Afghanistan,” said Zach. His younger sister Emilee — donned in a red and blue tutu and patriotic tattoos — said they decorated their front yard in Sheldon with red, white and blue streamers and planned to go home and eat cake.
Tammy Jarmuzek of Remsen, Iowa, said her 24-year-old son Treavor was looking forward to dinner out at Buffalo Wild Wings. As for her, she was simply happy to have him back in Iowa.
“I’m glad he got to do what he got to do over there, but I’m just happy to have him home,” Jarmuzek said. “I’m just glad to have them all home safe and sound. It’s going to be one good day.”
Ava Reitsma, 8, of Sanborn, Iowa, stood outside the rec center Friday afternoon with her left arm donning a patriotic red, white and blue-wrapped cast. As the sirens sounded the impending arrival of the troops, she could hardly contain her excitement to see her dad, SSG Ben Reitsma.
As she bounced up and down on the sidewalk, she admitted she was a bit nervous.
“I’m going to hug him and say, ‘Do you want to sign my cast?’” she said, wearing a special shirt she decorated with beads, colored gems, puff paint and a photo of her dad with the three kids that was taken during the soldier sendoff in July 2010.
Barb Bucher, anxious to see her son, Derek, home from the war, said it’s a dream come true to have him back home.
“When they leave, you really hope you see them again, but you just never know,” said Bucher, of Sheldon. Her son didn’t share much information about his deployment.
The 35 soldiers of the 2168th Transportation Company — deployed with the 334th Brigade Support — spent much of their nine months in Afghanistan working on the military’s vehicles and repairing damage caused by improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
“You see what we’re doing and what we’re accomplishing over there and it kind of makes you feel better about what we’re doing,” said E-4 Ben Clifford, 23, of Milford, Iowa. He returned home Friday to a large gathering of family members, including his Korean War veteran grandfather Sarge Steen, of Storden.
“I’m proud with every letter capital,” said Steen. “For being over in a country where the danger definitely persists, the anguishness of it had me (thinking) about my time in Korea.”
Steen was looking forward to sharing stories with his grandson now that he is back home, and Clifford was anxious to spend time with his family.
“It’s been miserable being away from home and away from family,” Clifford said. At the same time, seeing vehicles damaged by IEDs brought into their base for repairs was also miserable.
“You see it all over — IEDs, they’re tearing things up, they’re bad,” he said. “It’s a real gut-check when you know your friends are out there and that could happen to them.
“Those trucks are built a lot heavier than the old trucks were. They’re a little safe, but there’s still a danger — it’s never ending,” Clifford said. And yet, in his sixth year in the Iowa National Guard, Clifford reenlisted while in Afghanistan for another three years.
Though Clifford realizes he could potentially be called back to overseas duty, it isn’t on his mind at this point. Instead, he’s thinking about getting back to his normal routine — working as a mechanic at Jaycox Implement in Lake Park, Iowa, and helping an area farmer. He’s going to take the next two to three weeks off though to make the rounds and see family and friends.
During the brief welcome home ceremony, Sheldon Mayor Katricia Rider reminded the troops of the sad and somber send-off ceremony one year and five days ago.
“We are so proud to have you home, each and every one of you,” said Rider. “We are excited, we are happy and we are so glad you are back on American soil — welcome home 2168 Transportation Company.”