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Sue's Views Welcome home and thanks Charlie Co.!

Let's say it all together, "Thank you and welcome home!"

Ok, now say it 550 more times, once for each of the soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 151st Field Artillery who are returning home this weekend after serving a year of active duty in the Middle East.

Welcome back to civilian life. We hope that you are as successful restarting your "regular life" as you were in serving your country.

Based in Kuwait, the troops provided convoy escort security throughout Iraq. They completed 591 combat missions and traveled more than 1.9 million miles without accident or injury.

But life here in rural Minnesota is a lot different than it is in Kuwait and Iraq. And we're not just talking about the weather. Although, I wonder how many of the soldiers missed snow? Or raking leaves, duck hunting and ice fishing? Being snowed in at home warm and safe with your family?

Plus, a lot has happened around here in the year since they left and it will take some time to adjust to all of the changes.

One of the biggest changes might just be the soldiers. They are not the same people who boarded a bus a year ago. They have lived a life most of us could not, putting themselves in harm's way as part of their job. That's just not a occupational hazard for most of us back here at home. The worst we have to face is parking for basketball tournaments.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's get the soldiers off the bus and into the arms of their families. Let's put a warm meal and a cold beer in front of them. Let's let them get home and sleep in their own bed for a week or so, perhaps even sleep in for a couple of days.

Let's hear their stories, or let them sit and listen to the every day chatter of their friends and family. Let's let them share their photos or let them look through the family pictures of events they missed.

Let's let them enjoy the freedoms they served to defend.

Let's give them time to hug, hold, kiss and enjoy the family they have been missing

Thank you as well to the families and loved ones of the soldiers, who have been praying for their safe return from the moment they knew of the deployment.

The families will be the first to tell you that there have been many small efforts, and occasionally some extraordinary efforts, to support them throughout the past year. But it seems small in comparison to the pain of being separated from or worried about the safety of a loved one.

Thank you to the soldiers in Charlie Company, especially, but to all soldiers who have served their county, serving much more than just one weekend a month and two weeks a year.

We are happy to have you home, proud of your service and relieved that you are unharmed.

You make us proud.

So, all together now: thank you and welcome home.