Welcome home 1049th Seaford's Transportation Company gets big homecoming

By Tony E. Windsor

Having left the comforts of their homes and spent almost a year in one of the most dangerous parts of the world, soldiers from the 1049th Transportation Company, were welcomed home to cheering crowds, military bands and the grateful adulations of military and political dignitaries. It was Memorial Day, 2012, and for the 165 returning soldiers and their families and friends it will long be one of the happiest holidays of their lives.

The Delaware State Fairgrounds and Schabinger Pavilion, were transformed into a spectacle of patriotic fervor, as throngs of people waved U.S. flags and held up homemade "welcome home" signs, cheering as the soldiers marched into the ceremonies. Standing in formation the soldiers were lauded by among others, Delaware Army National Guard Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Francis Valvala, who declared, "Welcome home; a job well done."

Vavala, who called the soldiers, "citizen warriors," said the fact that the troops had been deployed for almost a year in some of the most dangerous terrain in the world and returned with no casualties, was a testament to their strength as unit. "There is no better way to celebrate Memorial Day than to honor these warriors," he said. "This is the face of the modern National Guard. They are essential in meeting our nation's call. It is a testament to the outstanding leadership and team work that these warriors all came home safely. I want to say thank you to each of you for looking out for your combat buddies.

The 1049th Transportation Company provided tactical and operation distribution, truck transportation and combat logistics patrol security to over 25 Forward Operating Bases and Command Outposts throughout Regional Command North and East Afghanistan. The company completed over 249 critical short and long haul missions covering over 216,000 miles of some of the most dangerous terrain on earth. While the 1049th is stationed in Seaford, its members come from communities throughout Delaware.

Since May 2011, the soldiers have been stationed in Afghanistan. According to Capt. Shane Mason, Commander of the 1049th Transportation Company, 35 of the soldiers received Combat Action Badges for hostile engagement of enemy insurgents. Twelve soldiers were awarded Bronze Stars, 141 received Army Commendation Medals and 13 were given the Army Achievement Medal.

Delaware Gov. Jack Markell addressed the troops and spectators and expressed his feelings on behalf of a "grateful state and nation" for the mission undertaken and carried out by the soldiers.

In November, Gov. Markell visited Afghanistan in November with Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta as part of the Governors Delegation Program. The program, initiated by Panetta, seeks to inspire a greater sense of appreciation among deployed troops for service to the country. It also allows visiting governors to get a better understanding of the operations their National Guard troops and Reservists are involved in and the conditions they are working in.

Markell said on Monday that he has a "lifetime of memories" gained while visiting the troops in Afghanistan. "I will never forget stepping off that helicopter at Base Deh Dadi II, in Afghanistan and meeting soldiers who told me they were from Seaford, Middletown, Newark, Harrington, and other communities from throughout Delaware," he said. "It gives me chills today as I stand with your family and friends all of us filled with such a great sense of pride."

Also addressing the troops was U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, he himself a retired member of the Navy and Naval Reserves. Carper led the crowd as they shouted "welcome home" to the troops in unison. Carper said while there will still be some U.S. military presence in Afghanistan for years to come the majority of troops, like the 1049th Transportation Company, are coming home. "We hopefully and prayerfully believe that we will be leaving behind a different Afghanistan; and Afghanistan that can defend itself and govern itself. This will be accomplished because the 1049th Transportation Company made that possible. They did it without losing one single soldier. That is a great day's work," he said.

Carper also took time to commend the Vietnam Veterans groups, including the motorcycle clubs who helped to escort the soldiers back to Harrington and were on hand to show their appreciation and kinship for the 1049th. "When our Vietnam veterans came home there were no bands playing, no governor, Lt. Governor or congressional delegations to greet them. There were no people cheering for them and waving flags and welcome home signs," he said. "They still hurt from that, but something good has come from it. Today there is hundreds of family members and friends, the Governor, Lt. Governor and a Congressional delegation are here and the band is playing for our returning soldiers."

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