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Final group of Guard members returns safely

By Michael Kimball Modified: October 19, 2008 at 2:37 pm •  Published: October 19, 2008
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photo - A soldier signals to family and friends on Sunday in Bethany during the final welcome home ceremony for Oklahoma National Guard members returning from Iraq. All of the approximately 2,600 soldiers from the 45th Infantry Brigade returned safely from a year-long tour. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman.
A soldier signals to family and friends on Sunday in Bethany during the final welcome home ceremony for Oklahoma National Guard members returning from Iraq. All of the approximately 2,600 soldiers from the 45th Infantry Brigade returned safely from a year-long tour. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman.
The last group of deployed soldiers from the Oklahoma National Guard's 45th Infantry Brigade were welcomed home from Iraq by family and friends this morning at a ceremony on the Southern Nazarene University campus in Bethany.

About 225 soldiers walked into the Sawyer Center to raucous cheers, tears and hugs for the 15th and final welcome home ceremony for the unit, which deployed about 2,600 Guard members from Oklahoma for the year-long tour of duty.

Every soldier in the unit returned home safely.

"When you deploy that many soldiers, the odds are kind of against that happening," Maj. Gen. Henry M. Wyatt, the state's adjutant general, said. "I think that's the single most significant accomplishment that every single person came home."

But even as the 45th Infantry Brigade returns fully intact, 300 Guard members from other Oklahoma units remain in Iraq, and another 800 soldiers from the 45th FIRES Brigade deploy Wednesday from Fort Hood in Texas for their own year-long tour there, Wyatt said.

"We want them to be looking forward to their own welcome home ceremony and get to experience everything that these soldiers today are experiencing," Wyatt said.