Red Bulls reunite in Luverne for happy homecomingLUVERNE — As soon as the sirens on the fleet of Luverne and Pipestone Fire Department trucks began to sound the arrival of soldiers in the Alpha Battery of the 1-125th Field Artillery Sunday morning, family members gathered outside the Luverne Armory began to cheer, wave flags and signs and grow a little misty-eyed knowing their loved ones were finally coming home.
By: Julie Buntjer, Worthington Daily Globe
LUVERNE — As soon as the sirens on the fleet of Luverne and Pipestone Fire Department trucks began to sound the arrival of soldiers in the Alpha Battery of the 1-125th Field Artillery Sunday morning, family members gathered outside the Luverne Armory began to cheer, wave flags and signs and grow a little misty-eyed knowing their loved ones were finally coming home.
Three motor coaches carrying the National Guard Red Bulls were escorted through town by firefighters, the Rock County Sheriff’s Office and the Patriot Guard. The buses pulled in just south of the Luverne Armory, where families waved and anxiously watched for their loved ones to step off the bus.
Among them was Eileen Goedken of Ellsworth, waiting for her oldest son, Tom Nolte, to finally be home. In his first deployment, Nolte had been away from home for nearly a year, serving with fellow troops at Camp Patriot, Kuwait Naval Base.
“The family will be all back together again — we’ll be one again,” Goedken said. “The families and the soldiers, they make a lot of sacrifices throughout the year, missing holidays and birthdays.”
For her, it’s been nerve-wracking having a son on foreign soil as part of Operation New Dawn. Those nerves now can be replaced by joy.
“My twins did get confirmed today, too, so it’s been a busy, exciting day,” Goedken said. “There’s lots to celebrate.”
Ninety-two soldiers returned to Luverne on Sunday, with a slightly smaller contingent of B-Battery soldiers arriving at approximately the same time in Jackson.
Jen Pottratz and her four children, of Pipestone, were waiting at the Luverne Armory for husband and father Nathan Pottratz. Having him gone for nearly a year was “awful,” said Jen.
“We made it through. It’s an experience that you just get through,” she added. “We’re very happy to have him home.”
Nathan had been home on leave over Christmas, but his kids are looking forward to having him around every day. Ten-year-old Dalton said he just wanted to give his dad a hug.
It didn’t take long for Worthington native Kent Knutson to find his family, and he was happy to be back home after his first overseas deployment.
“It’s been a good year,” he said with a grin. “Everything went fast, it was exciting, it was something new.”
The Alpha Battery provided base defense at Kuwait Naval Base, guarding the grounds and performing “everyday routines,” Knutson said. While he was able to keep in touch with his family through email and Skype, nothing beats being home and seeing them face to face.
Knutson said he missed his family, friends, his cell phone and beer — a luxury not available to soldiers while stationed overseas.
Brewster natives Alex Obermoller and Justin Brunk also completed their first overseas deployments with this mission. Brunk said there were a lot of “boring times, sitting in a lot of towers,” and said he planned to take it easy now that he’s home.
“I’m just happy to be here,” said Brunk.
Obermoller said the most difficult thing about his deployment was missing his little girl. He was home on leave in early February for her birth, but hadn’t been able to see or hold her since he’d reported back to duty. She’s now three months old.
With a young son in his arms, Christopher Henning of Fulda said it was a great feeling to be back in Minnesota and with his family. The father of two, he said he’s ready to get back and be a family again.
“It’s been really tough (being away), but I think it’s been harder on my wife,” Henning said. “She’s the one that’s had to keep everything in line while I’ve been gone. My job was pretty easy — they told me when to eat, when to sleep and what to wear.”
Luverne veteran Shawn Kor was greeted by his wife and daughters at the Luverne Armory, and said the Alpha Battery left Kuwait just in time — “It was getting hot.”
“We went over there, they gave us a job and we got done and came back,” said Kor. “Now everyone gets to be home with their family again.”
In a brief ceremony outside the Armory, Terrie Gulden of Rock County Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2757 welcomed the troops home.
“It was almost one year ago that I had the honor of standing before you and wishing you a safe and successful mission. That mission is complete, job well done and welcome home to all you soldiers,” Gulden said. “On behalf of the Rock County VFW Post 2757, I want to thank you for your unselfish service. We are proud of you and your accomplishments on this mission.”
Christy Appel, from Pipestone’s Beyond the Yellow Ribbon campaign, also spoke briefly.
“We welcome you home with open arms and open hearts — thank you for your service,” she said. “I see a lot of good-looking soldiers out here with their arms around the ones they love. I just want to say thank you for your service to us Americans.”
Capt. Brian Douty presented a U.S. Flag to Luverne’s David Haugom during the ceremony. The flag, given by the city last summer when the Alpha Battery deployed, was flown over Camp Patriot, Kuwait Naval Base, on Dec. 25, 2011.
“I’m proud to return it to the city of Luverne, so they can display it … wherever they feel fit,” Douty said.
Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.