Sgt. 1st Class Troy Zimmerman walks the red carpet with his returning colleagues during the welcome home celebration at the National Guard Armory
A sea of emotion, applause and appreciation such as has never been expressed in the twin cities welcomed home returning National Guardsmen last week. The idea of Soldotna Mayor David Carey and Kenai Mayor Pat Porter who together with a troop of volunteers, allowed the hearts of the community to be filled with pride and love of country. “This is the best community that anyone could be asked to serve and we’re certainly including Nikiski and Sterling too,” said Sgt. 1st Class Troy Zimmerman.
The Kenai Peninsula “Family” came out in mass with some members hiking from the nearest parking place which for some was nearly half a mile from the National Guard Armory in Kenai. Once inside people were warmly greeted by Mayor Carey and given a small American flag. The personally signed welcome home yellow ribbon wrapped around the walls of entire armory. Each signed 8 x11 piece of yellow paper was later collected and placed into a notebook that was some two feet high. “We presented it the National Guard to be kept at the Armory as a reminder of how much our community appreciates those who wear the uniform of service to America,” said Mayor Carey.
National Guardsman Roy Brendible embraces his wife before addressing the welcome home crowd that gathered at the armory Saturday
The word “United” took on special meaning for the cross section of people gathered to welcome the returning troops at the celebration party. Mayor Carey was emphatic that the celebration was not just for the seven returning local Guardsmen, but for all who had worn the uniform of our country and had returned home. All veterans were asked to meet together on the red carpet rolled out to welcome the returning troops. As young and old soldiers gathered during a roar of applause and cheers that accompanied tears of friends and family there was a healing of the past in the air and a bright vision of the future for all who wear the uniforms of service to the United States of America
Waving in a sea of emotion the Colors are posted at the National Guard Armory during the welcome home ceremony last week
Each of the seven returning Guardsmen, Will Schwenke, Matt Lay, Roy Brendible, Ken Felche, John McGrane, Gregory Fite and Troy Zimmerman addressed the crowd and detailed their appreciation first to the sacrifice their families had made, then to each group who had written letters and gathered items for them to share with the children of Iraq, “I have to tell you, all that candy you sent us to give the kids, we ate some of it,” said Will Schwenke. To which the crowd responded with a standing ovation. As Sgt. Zimmerman played a slide show of pictures taken in Bagdad during their deployment and family events that happened at home during their tour of duty, Bonnie Nichols performed a special she wrote and recorded in honor of all the families with spouses in service. The new release is entitled, “Red White and Blue over You.” The afternoon concluded with a medley of patriotic songs sung by the flag waving crowd and accompanied by the Kenai High School Band.
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