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A welcome home for the troops

justine wettschreck/Daily Globe The soldiers stopped for a break in Worthington and to meet up with the escort on their way home to LeMars and Sioux City, Iowa. They were greeted at the Blue Line Travel Center by family members and supporters, all anxious to offer hugs and thanks.

WORTHINGTON -- Members of the Iowa National Guard Charlie Troop 113th Cavalry stopped in Worthington Sunday on their way home to Le Mars and Sioux City, Iowa after spending a year in Afghanistan.

The troops had been on busses since 7:30 a.m., and the stop in Worthington gave them time to get out and move around before making the last leg of their journey. But they didn't go home alone.

Members of the Iowa State Patrol and Plymouth County Sheriff's Office ventured into Minnesota to meet up with their troops and escort them the rest of the way home.

And then there were the bikes. More than a hundred motorcyclists from a variety of bike clubs across Iowa and a few neighboring states joined in on the escort.

"We knew there were bikes coming," said Sgt. Rick Singer of the Plymouth County Sheriff's Office. "But the number of bikes on this one really caught us off guard."

On another recent escort, there were about 35 bikes, Singer said. They had no idea just how many would join them in Worthington until the motorcycles started pulling into the Blue Line Travel Center.

And kept pulling in. More and more, until the number of motorcycles was well over 100.

One of the soldiers on the bus was one of their own, Singer said.

"A First Sgt. on that bus is a Plymouth County Deputy," Singer said, pride evident in his voice as he pointed out one of the four busses.

Singer was one of the first people standing outside that particular bus as soldiers began to step off.

"These are the fun ones," Singer said of the bus escort. "I've had to do the fallen soldier ones, and this is much better."

About an hour before the busses were scheduled to arrive in Worthington, Singer contacted members of the Worthington Police Department.

He had just found out how many motorcycles were involved in the escort, and thought a little help might be in order.

Always ready to support the troops, several of the Worthington Police officers headed out.

They blocked off the intersection on southbound Minnesota 60 so the entire escort could stay together, then stopped traffic at the intersection of Oxford and Minnesota 60.

With the troops back on their respective busses, the escort organized and hit the road.

Two of the busses were bound for Le Mars, and the other two for Sioux City.

The escort was stacked with the separation in mind. Squad cars, with lights flashing, led off a train of motorcycles, followed by two busses.

Then came another group of squad cars, more motorcycles and the other busses.

"They'll split off in Le Mars," Singer said. "Heading home."