Soldiers Get A Warm Welcome Home in West Michigan

Posted at 7:00 PM, Mar 28, 2013
and last updated 2013-03-29 09:48:29-04

KALAMAZOO, Mich– Hugs and tears greeted more than 90 Michigan Army National Guard soldiers returning home Thursday.

Hundreds filled Western Michigan University’s Field House in Kalamazoo to welcome them home. The soldiers are a part of the Augusta-based 1433rd Engineer Company, which spent 10 months in Afghanistan.

The unit lost one of their own back in 2012, Sgt. Kyle McClain, 25, was killed when an improvised explosive device detonated. Four others were seriously injured including Pvt. Joshua Colon, 20, of Grand Rapids. The unit completed 700 route clearance missions. Seven soldiers received purple hearts.

For the families waiting to see their loved ones, the anticipation was hard to hard to hide. It could be read on every face in the game no matter what the age.

Nathan Harkins, a 10 year-old from Ionia, was waiting for his dad, and he said for the past 10 months it has been tough being away from his dad. This is his dad’s second deployment: “You get used to it after a while, but it takes a long time, and by the time you get used to it, he’s already coming back.”

“It took a toll on them,” said Nathan’s aunt, Jennifer Kill. “They’ve been really emotional. So I think that’s what I’m really excited about, is them seeing their dad again.”

When the family was finally reunited, it was a powerful sight. Lt. Thomas Harkins said it just felt good to be home, and he was excited to see his kids. It’s not only important to support the soldiers but their families, because “even though we’re over there, our families and kids suffer and they need just as much help as we do.”