First Soldiers With 875th Arrive On U.S. Soil

September 22, 2007  - Posted at 9:00 p.m. CDT

CAMP DOUGLASS, WI-Just after sunrise on a chilly Wisconsin morning, Arkansas' 875th broke through the clouds and touched down on American soil.

"It's wonderful...beyond words. I like green grass. I was tired of looking at sand," said Spc. Phillip Simpson.

As the doors of the jumbo jet opened, a line of soldiers stepped down, one by ony from their tour of duty in Iraq.

"Today is my birthday. Getting back on my birthday is the best birthday present anybody could ask for," said Sgt. Fred Sibert.

As soldiers made their way across the tarmac, they were eagerly greeted by clapping, handshaking, and a whole lot of hugs from military leaders.

Still many are anxious to see their families.

"It feels really good to be back. I'm just ready to get back with my wife and my baby daughter. I'm ready to get home to her," said Spc. Clayton Shelley.

For a few brothers and sisters, however, familytime was served while in Iraq.

"It's been pretty tough. At times it gets really bad, but it feels good now. It was good to have him with me. A lot of times it would bring you up," said brothers Walter and Carey Rau.

However, the true the cost of war hits hardest now.

"It's kind of bittersweet. Eric Smallwood was in my platoon. I was real close to him. It's real hard not coming home with him," said Shelley.

Especially when overseas the brotherhood never really dies.

"We have a great group of guys. We keep each other up, joke around, play around, and we pretty much have fun wherever we are," said Simpson.

And below a sea of red, white, and blue flags- in the hanger of Volk Field, soldiers traded in their weapons for the freedom they've been fighting for.

"You accepted, did the job, and did it outstandingly - each and every one of you. We truly appreciate it. The citizens of Arkansas, Indiana, and Vermont are extremely proud of what you have accomplished."

After a speech the 875th marched across the parking lot and boarded the busses to Fort McCoy, only thinking now of what all they want to do when they return to their home state.

"Sit on my front porch swing and just relax for a little while," said Sibert.

On board Saturday's plane were 241 soldiers from Arkansas, Indiana, and Vermont.

All but 9 of these were from Arkansas' Alpha and Charlie Companies.

The final plane is expected to land sometime early Monday morning.

As of now the Arkansas National Guard hopes all of the 875th will be back in the state on September 29.

Stay with myself and Bob throughout the remainder of the weekend as we bring you complete coverage of the 875th's homecoming to the U.S.

To our soldiers of the 875th, we all salute you for a job well done!

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