Region 8 Soldier Returns Home

March 2, 2005 – Posted at 4:33 p.m. CST

POPLAR BLUFF -- A Region 8 soldiers has finally returned home after serving overseas for more than a year. More than 500 members of the Missouri Army National Guard 1140th Engineer Battalion returned home to the Show Me state Tuesday morning, and it was a long awaited homecoming.

Poplar Bluff Police Lieutenant Tom Brown hasn't even been back in Missouri for 48 hours yet, and already he's working on doing nothing.

"The best part about being back right now is not having to do anything!" laughed the command sergeant major, "It's quiet an emotional event to realize we had so many people that support the troops over there."

His company worked on roads in southern Iraq, not only changing the landscape but changing lives as well.

"We hauled gravel, we moved dirt and we helped get the contracts going and when we were finished, there are now two lanes of blacktop going all the way," said Brown, "There's no telling how many millions of dollars have been saved, plus we have actually saved lives, on that project alone."

It's not the first time he's served during wartime; he was in the Marine Corps during Vietnam.

"People just kind of took us for granted or just ignored us or we were just something you had to deal with like we were in the way," said Brown, "But this was totally different."

Brown doesn't think adjusting back to civilian life will be hard. He's served as a police officer for the last 32 years, but after spending the last 12 months and a day in Iraq, he says he plans to retire at the beginning of next month.

"If you wear a uniform like we do, sooner or later, someone is going to be called up to pay a price," said Brown, "You don't get to wear this uniform for free. Sooner or later, somebody is going to come up and say, hey we need you now, it's time for you to earn your pay. And that's what we did."

Brown says he also plans to spend time with his four children and have a second honeymoon with his new wife. They married only a month before he left to go overseas.