National Guard soldiers welcomed home after Middle East mission

Gov. John Carney greets Lt. Joseph Bryant, of Delmar, and his two-year-old son Nate at the welcome home ceremony in Smyrna Friday. Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh

SMYRNA — Welcome home, soldiers. Your service to country was deeply appreciated and absence greatly noticed.

At an official return ceremony Friday morning, 19 Delaware National Guard members were saluted for duty during a yearlong deployment to assist the mission of defeating ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

Soldiers from the Delaware National Guard’s 261st Theater Tactical Signal Brigade stand in formation at their official welcome home ceremony in Smyrna Friday.

The unit from the 261st Theater Tactical Signal Brigade came home a month ago and walked into the lives they left behind.

“It feels like forever when you’re there and then when you get back it’s like it was over in the blink of an eye,” said 1st Lt. Joe Bryant, 32, a Delmar resident.

Standing nearby inside the Smyrna Readiness Center on Artisan Drive was 1st Lt. Bryant’s wife Tanna and their 2-year-old son Nate. Mrs. Bryant expressed pretty much the same thing after the official gathering concluded.

“It seemed like forever while it was going on, but when it ended it was like it flew by,” she said. “As hard as it was, we were able to get through it.”

Just minutes earlier, Lt. Bryant had the pleasure of listening to his boss — Gov. John Carney — recall how much the healthcare policy and constituent relations staffer was missed in the office.

Soldiers from the Delaware National Guard’s 261st Theater Tactical Signal Brigade stand and salute during singing of the national anthem at their official welcome home Friday.

“These events are special, they’re really special,” Delaware’s commander-in-chief said. “This welcoming home ceremony is extra special because a member of my staff is returning home.”

The appreciative remarks didn’t surprise Lt. Bryant, since he said the governor has regularly acknowledged his admiration for service to country.

“To know that you’re appreciated at home helps with the morale, which is a very big thing when you’re going through the time away,” he said.

For many months, the governor walked by Lt. Bryant’s work space and it “helped me appreciate what employers and family experience when their employees and loved ones” are deployed and absent.

At an earlier return gathering at the governor’s office to welcome back Lt. Bryant, the governor said he “got choked up because I appreciate in a very deep way the fact that” so few put on the uniform so that so many can “sleep comfortably at night under the blanket of security you all provide us.”

Dawn Kisner (right) brought herpet therapy dog “Kate” along to the ceremony welcome ceremony for 19 soldiers from the Delaware National Guard’s 261st Theater Tactical Signal Brigade who were deployed to the middle east in Operation Resolve.

Capt. John Waller, stationed at Dover Air Force Base with his wife Amanda and two children, watched his son’s birth via video while deployed, then got reacquainted with his blossoming 3-year-old daughter when returning home.

“She was just starting to talk when I left her and when I got back she was able to carry on a conversation,” Capt. Waller said.

While deployed under the Army’s 18th Airborne Corps, the soldiers were tasked with providing reliable communications lines inside Central Command’s Area of Responsibility, covering network operations, support, logistical support, movement and procurement operations.

Delaware Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Carol Timmons put the soldiers at ease after they marched in formation to the ceremony’s center of attention.

“Please relax, look around, don’t stare straight ahead,” Maj. Gen. Timmons said. “You’ve probably had enough of that.”

According to Maj. Gen. Timmons, “Without your expertise and problem solving ability we could not do all the fancy stuff you see on TV.”

In a news release, the soldiers were described by Maj. Gen. Timmons as a “hand-picked (team) for this mission and we are thrilled to have them home safely.”

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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