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      Heartland welcomes home heroes

      Nine months ago, 125 members of the Missouri National Guard were deployed to Afghanistan. On Tuesday afternoon, all 125 members were welcomed home safe and sound by family and friends.

      Members of the 1438th Engineer Company were deployed overseas June 12 of last year. Those service men and women were welcomed home by loved ones at a special ceremony held just for them. There, American flags were waved, cheers were shouted, and warm embraces were given. Many deserving thank you's were also awarded.

      "Thank you is a phrase that does not adequately convey our deep gratitude," said Missouri Governor Jay Nixon.

      Those men and women spent the past nine months dismantling bridges built by the US and British Militaries throughout 'Operation Enduring Freedom'. They also spent countless hours maintaining bridges for coalition forces to use during route clearance operations.During deployment, members of the unit received over 120 awards and medals for their service.

      "Honor. Courage. A sense of duty, and a love of country. These are words and phrases that carry great meaning for each of you, and that's been clearly demonstrated by your dedicated service to Missouri and our nation," added Nixon.

      Members of the unit could not wait to reunite with loved ones.

      "I've been waiting for this for nine months. I'm happy and content to be back home with my family. It's enlightening," said Robert Acree, a member of the 1438th Engineer Company.

      Some of those members are even embracing something as simple as the green grass and trees.

      "In Afghanistan, in the mountains and the desert, and then seeing all this green and all these people with different colored clothes, it's gone from brown to colorful in my life," said Capt.. McClellan Gaono-Taiese.

      From 2004-2006, the 1438th unit also mobilized in support of 'Operation Iraqi Freedom'. There, the unit removed and maintained ten bridges, more than any other bridge company in Iraq during the same time period.