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Ceremony welcomed soldiers returning from Iraq

A welcome home ceremony was held Tuesday for 120 soldiers of the Army National Guard who have recently returned from deployment in Iraq.

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MORRISVILLE, N.C. — A welcome home ceremony was held Tuesday for 120 soldiers of the Army National Guard who recently returned from deployment in Iraq.

The ceremony for soldiers of the 449th Theater Aviation Brigade was at the unit's Morrisville headquarters. They deployed to Iraq in September 2008.

“To see that the state and everyone is so happy to see us back, it’s pretty amazing,” Capt. Latonya Smith said.

The ceremony included members of the North Carolina National Guard leadership, civic leaders and family and friends.

For some of the soldiers, coming home means a chance to meet the newest additions to their families. Deputy Brigade Commander Mike Fields missed the birth of his first child by two months.

“I couldn’t leave and get home in time for the birth, so I watched it on the Internet,” Fields said.

Fields said nothing compared to getting home and meeting his daughter, Palynn, for the first time.

“I didn’t have the true feeling of being a father, other than just seeing pictures and seeing it on the Internet. But when I got home, I could see her and touch her and feel her and that was the greatest thing,” Fields said.

Staff Sgt. Deana Abernathy returned but her husband is still serving overseas.

“Obviously, I’m excited about coming home. We have two small kids, so I miss them and I was very excited to come home and see them," Abernathy said. “At the same time, it was kind of sad coming home and knowing he’s not there.”

The soldiers returned to North Carolina nearly two weeks ago, but this was a chance for the public to thank them.

“We do it for the people who are here, so this is awesome,” Abernathy said.

The 449th brigade is trained to handle security, air assault and other service support missions.