National Guard Troops Return From Year In Afghanistan - - Tulsa, OK - News, Weather, Video and Sports - |

National Guard Troops Return From Year In Afghanistan

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Amanda Rees, of Caney, Kan. got her wish.

``All I want to do is jump into his arms, I'm not sure if I am going to be able to contain myself,'' she said as she waited for the bus that was bringing her husband Nathan from Colorado to Oklahoma City.

He was one of the 47 soldiers of a National Guard unit that returned to Oklahoma on Thursday. They are the first contingent of 450 soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 180th Infantry who have been on active duty since February 2006 and deployed to Afghanistan for almost a year.

``All 450 should be back by the end of June,'' said Lt. Col. John Altebumer.

Stilwell resident Kim Scraper, who was waiting to see her son, Jake, said, ``Today is a great day. It was really hard when he left.''

After they had embraced and he was picking up his duffel bag, she added, ``I'm glad he's back and thankful.''

She said it was a bittersweet homecoming for the solders as one of them, Sgt. Buddy Hugie of Poteau was killed during their tour of duty.

He was shot when he tried to provide medical care to two soldiers in the group who had been injured when they came under fire.

Spc. James Morris, of Tulsa and Spc. Joseph Hopkins, of Shawnee were both wounded while in Afghanistan.

They were gunners on a Humvee and both were injured by an improvised explosive device. Morris also was shot in the leg.

Morris has been a member of the National Guard for three years and is also a Tulsa County Sheriff's Department deputy.

In spite of their injuries, both men said it had been a good year.

I'm a soldier and this is what I do,'' Morris said when asked if he would go back again. ``The sheriff's department is real supportive.''

Hopkins, who joined the National Guard right after high school graduation, said he joined with this particular unit because he knew they were going to be deployed to Afghanistan.

``I was bored and so I just decided to join the military,'' he said.

He said that he would definitely go back again because, ``we are doing the right stuff. Plus you get to see the world in a way nobody else could.''

Hopkins said that he would probably return to his job as a parts manager at an auto parts business.

For Sgt. Frank Hayes, of Pocola, he was just glad to be back with his wife, Gena.

``I made it,'' he said as the couple embraced.

His wife earlier said they had made plans to spend the weekend in Oklahoma City, then will go back to Pocola and have a cookout and be with all their friends and family later.

As the couple started to walk to their truck, Frank Hayes turned and said, ``We can get on with the rest of our lives now.''
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