220 soldiers show up early in Dubuque - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

220 soldiers show up early in Dubuque

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DUBUQUE (KWWL) -

220 Iowa Army National Guard soldiers were reunited with family and friends at the Grand River Center in Dubuque on Sunday morning.

Unlike the previous ceremonies this past week that ran an average of 30 minutes to an hour late, the soldiers arrived in busses about an hour before the ceremony was scheduled to start on Sunday. Both the soldiers and their families were so anxious to be reunited that the actual ceremony started about 10 minutes earlier than planned, to end the year-long separation.

Two Iowa Army National Guard units were part of the ceremony in Dubuque. Companies A and D, 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry, 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 34th Division were mobilized as part of Operation Enduring Freedom for a year-long deployment to Afghanistan.

An official ceremony welcomed home the returning soldiers. For Ona Wygle, who spotted her husband Sgt. Derrick Wygle as he entered the room, it couldn't end soon enough. As soon as the companies were dismissed, she rushed into his arms, and the two embraced. The Waverly couple has been married just one and a half years, and the two haven't seen each other since January.

Sgt. Wygle said he's, "going on vacation" with his wife, "then starting school."

Other reunited couples, such as Sgt. Drew Cox and his fiance Candice Yelden, have a very specific goal in mind.

"She wants me to go to this Harry Potter movie that she's been waiting for me to actually go see," Sgt. Cox said, with his arms around his smiling fiance.

The two are getting married in the fall and have been planning the Dubuque wedding long-distance.

"We've been trying to keep in contact over Skype," Yelden said. "I'll be like, 'Okay, Honey, this is who we have for caterers,' or, 'This is what we have for colors.'"

She saw her fiance two months ago, when he was home on leave, but Sunday's homecoming ceremony was just as exciting.

"It didn't really hit until this morning, whenever I was like, 'Oh my god, he comes home today,'" Yelden said.

Cox felt the excitement of the welcome home event.

"A little overwhelming, but in a very good way," he said.

Elsewhere in the crowded, bustling Grand River Center room, David Fisch enjoyed the presence of his two stepsons, both of whom deployed together.

"That's been a long year," he said. "This is awesome to have them home again."

One stepson is Sgt. Kenneth Cain, 25, for whom this was a second deployment. He'd been before to Kosovo.

"This is Connor," Sgt. Cain said, holding his blonde little boy in his arms. "He just turned one when I came back home in May on leave."

It was the first deployment for Spc. Kurt Cain, who joined his brother in the Alpha Company.

"It was a lot more comforting, being it was my first combat deployment," Spc. Cain said. "Whenever we did patrols together, I got to see him. It was a nice little piece of home I got to see. It kind of kept me going."

"We were in two different places," his brother Sgt. Cain said. "The couple times I got to see him, though, he did really good. He was in a team leader spot for a little while, and I think they were happy to have him there."

The camaraderie was great for the brothers.

"When he'd get on Facebook or anything like that, we actually got to chat it up and actually talk about what we both were going through," the younger Cain said.

Fisch, however, said it was sometimes difficult for family members back home, especially when he heard on the radio this past year about an attack on US forces in Afghanistan.

"I tell you what, I just broke down at work," Fisch said. "What are the chances of it being my kids?"

As it turns out, the attacks were not at his stepsons' locations. Fisch said he was grateful to see the men throughout the year.

"We were able to talk with them on Skype and Facebook and chat with them just about every day," Fisch said. "If it weren't for that, the media cycles, I tell you what, I think we'd all be basket cases."

Now, of course, the family is happy to be back together.

"Dubuque is one of the places where the support just comes from everywhere," Fisch said.

"It's a lot better than over there, I'll tell you that," Spc. Kurt Cain said. "It was a good experience, but, I mean, like I said, there's nothing that can beat family and home, all that, everything that you grew up with, everything you know and love."

The brothers even missed the same thing about Dubuque.

"I'd have to say the river," Spc. Cain said. "There's so much stuff I do on it, I mean, fish, boat, everything. Tubing. I got to get back on there."

Similarly, for Sgt. Cain and his wife and three kids, "We're taking the boys fishing tomorrow, so that will be fun," he said.

Sgt. Kenneth Cain said wounded Garber National Guardsman Adam Eilers was presented with the Purple Heart right before the ceremony. An Improvised Explosive Device injured him in February.

About 30 homecoming ceremonies are expected to take place over a two-week period to welcome home members of the Iowa National Guard.

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