The first wave of Minnesota National Guard members returning from the Middle East were greeted by their families Sunday at armories across the state.
The 215 soldiers who arrived are part of the more than 2,700 Red Bulls who've been assisting with the U.S. drawdown in Iraq. They flew to the St. Paul air base and boarded buses that took them to armories across the state.
Cpl. Lennin Hernandez was returning from his third deployment; he arrived at the Bloomington armory before his family. Hernandez said he'd only seen his two young daughters on Skype since a leave last October.
"The little one, my youngest one, she's talking a lot more than what she was before when I left, and my oldest one she just rambles on about everything," Hernandez said.
Hernandez crouched and held out his arms as his youngest daughter ran to him. Hernandez said he wants to spend as much time as possible with his family before going back to a job that's been held for him at a company in Jackson, Minn.
Platoon leader Lt. Patrick Lo of Edina was returning from his first deployment. At 28, he says he's one of the oldest soldiers in his division. Lo said it's a relief to return with no causalities in his company or squadron. But he said some soldiers may have a tough time transitioning out of life in the Guard.
"People miss it in terms of like the camaraderie that everyone has with each other," he said. "I think everyone here is super excited about just eating a real meal — not just army fare for once."
Lo plans to return to his job at a learning center.