Montana soldiers receive warm welcome home

2011-06-11T14:52:00Z 2014-08-25T15:36:37Z Montana soldiers receive warm welcome homeBy ZACH BENOIT Of The Gazette Staff The Billings Gazette

It hasn't changed in three deployments for Montana Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Matt Williams.

"It feels so good to be home," he said. "I told the person on the plane next to me, the anxiety about coming home is always there. I still have it right now."

However, the Helena soldier had quite the stress reliever Saturday when he arrived at Billings Logan International Airport to his girlfriend, Carey Phelan; mother, Mari Willims; grandparents Jan and Jim Fishburn; family friend Tom Teston; and a crowd of nearly 100 other people.

Williams is one of 29 soldiers with the Guard's 67th Network Support Company who came home Saturday from a one-year deployment in Iraq.

The unit, on its first deployment, was scattered around Iraq providing communications support for the 67th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade. After about a week at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin, they made the last leg of their journey home.

Kristi Negrette, whose husband, Capt. Mario Negrette, is the unit's commander, helped organize the airport reception and chairs the unit's Family Readiness Group — made up of loved ones who support one another during the deployment.

"It's an overwhelming feeling," she said. "The excitement, just everything."

Staff Sgt. Jade Wisecup just focused on getting down the stairs to the baggage claim, but when she looked up, the first thing she saw was her 2-year-old daughter, Bella.

She immediately scooped the girl up and hugged and kissed her before embracing her other two children, Elizabeth, 8, and Alexxander, 6.

"It's very exciting," Wisecup said. "We've been waiting for this for a long time."

The reception started with Young Marines and Patriot Guard riders holding American flags lining both sides of the stairway leading from the terminal.

As soon as the first soldier's head bobbed into view from the stairs, applause and cheering swept through the room and the troops scanned the crowd for familiar faces.

After plenty of long embraces and some teary eyes, most of them headed up to a reception set up on the airport's second floor, complete with food and supplies donated by local businesses.

Phelan said that a year ago, the 230-mile drive from Helena to Billings was filled with anxiety and nerves knowing that Williams would be gone for a year. But on Saturday, it was a little different.

"It's surreal," she said. "We came from Helena and there was anxiety on the drive in, but it was good. When we turned into the airport, I was so anxious."

Williams said the first thing he wanted to do when he got home was "just relax," but his mother, happy to have her son home, was looking forward to an extra set of hands around the house.

"We're going to get him to work to fix our flooded house," Mari Williams said with a grin. "He's going to be sandbagging."



Copyright 2015 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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