Iowa National Guard Final Homecoming in Cedar Rapids - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Iowa National Guard Final Homecoming in Cedar Rapids

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Saturday afternoon, the last of the Iowa National Guard troops, deployed in the summer 2010, are home. The men and women made up the largest deployment in state history since World War II.

Family, friends, and fellow military members welcomed about 130 soldiers home at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena. The troops are members of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division.

There were two kinds of people at the Ice Arena in Cedar Rapids. Those waiting behind the glass...and the men and women trying to wait patiently on the floor.

"I couldn't stand up straight. My commander had to remind me to breathe," said SPC Kyle Leonard.

The division between the two quickly faded when the troops hear "Dismissed!"

Some of the soldiers had been through the process before, which made some aspects of the deployment easier to handle.

"It doesn't get any better," said 2nd LT. Brian Tekippe. "It's still the same."

Tekippe married his wife Angie just four years ago. Since then, he's served in Iraq, and now Afghanistan. Meaning they've only been together, physically, for about half of their marriage

.

"It's just been so long that I wanted to jump and come after him!" said Angie.

Other soldiers, like SPC Leonard, were returning from their first deployment to a war zone.

"There's no words for it," Leonard said about the homecoming. "It's been a long year. I'm just glad I'm here.".

Kyle's father, Charlie Leonard, is a Senior Master Sergeant in the U.S. Air Force. In three decades of service, he's never received a homecoming like this -- and you could see him swell with pride as he welcomed his son.

"Very proud. Very proud. He keeps a family tradition going," said SMSgt. Leonard.

Then there are the soldiers who are father-figures overseas, and at home. LT COL Allen Gronewold's kids are clearly old enough to understand why their dad was gone, but they can't wait to have him back.

"We were like, Ahhh! We brought tissues and everything. We were pushing people out of the way to -- oh my god, we have to see him! And we just jumped into his arms, practically," said Alexis & Amber Lee Gronewold.

While the homecoming was exciting, it was also overwhelming. Which is why many of the soldiers are looking forward to the same thing as Gronewold.

"I'm ready to get out of here, relax, get in some different clothes, and drink a beer," he said.

After a year of service to his country, he's earned it.

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