By Cleve Bryan
HAMMONTON, N.J. (CBS) – More than 100 members of the New Jersey National Guard’s 150th Engineer Company received a hero’s welcome Tuesday in Hammonton.
The soldiers spent nine months in Afghanistan deconstructing U.S. military bases used in Operation Enduring Freedom.
“What they did over there is they helped take apart and prepare for shipment home all the things that have been built over there over the last 12 years of the war,” says Brig Gen Michael Cunniff who commands the NJ Air and Army Guard.
The speeches from dignitaries like Lt. Gov Kim Guadagno and Congressmen Frank LoBiondo were short and sweet so families could have their long-awaited reunions.
“I can’t even put into words how excited I am to have him back. I’m so proud of him and I couldn’t be happier,” says Robin Jones who gave her son Joseph Jones the first kiss after dismissal.
“I’m speechless but I’m happy and I thank God cause he’s back and I’m so happy for that,” says Samantha Previl who welcomed home her husband Mackenson Previl.
Twenty-two-year-old Michael Norelli was happy to be back from his first deployment and reflective on the work his company accomplished.
“You know it was a good experience, we had a lot of good men over there, we got the mission done and if it wasn’t for my family I wouldn’t have been able to do it,” says Norelli whose father Duane tried to hide tears behind his sunglasses.
Brig Gen Cunniff says currently there are no orders for NJ Guardsman to respond to the recent violence in Iraq.
He says the NJ Air and Army Guard typically have about 800 members deployed overseas at a time for various missions.
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