Kentucky soldiers return home after year-long Iraq deployment

Published: Sep. 26, 2009 at 2:41 AM EDT|Updated: Oct. 21, 2009 at 6:24 PM EDT
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Lorena Simpson
Lorena Simpson
Sgt. Sheri Simpson
Sgt. Sheri Simpson
Stephanie St. Clair
Stephanie St. Clair
Major Teresa Preston
Major Teresa Preston

By Marisela Burgos - bio | email
Posted by Charles Gazaway - email

SHELBYVILLE, KY (WAVE) - About 70 soldiers with Kentucky's Army National Guard are home after spending a year, supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. The soldiers are members of the 1163rd Area Support Medical Company. During their deployment, they spent time south of Baghdad providing medical care for detainees in Bucca, Iraq.

Friday afternoon, the soldiers' family and friends waited for them to come home at Settle Gymnasium in Shelbyville. As loved ones waited, the anticipation increased every second. Lorena Simpson could not wait to see her 31-year-old daughter, Sgt. Sheri Simpson. "They're so close yet so far away," Lorena Simpson said laughing. "But they'll be here soon."

This was the second time Sheri Simpson had deployed, but Lorena said she is used to it. They are a military family. But for Stephanie St. Clair, this was the first time her son spent some time overseas. Her 23-year-old son, Sgt. Joseph Seidl, emailed her and called, but that just it wasn't enough for St. Clair who said missed the two are close and she missed seeing him on a daily basis.

When the buses carrying members of the 1163rd pulled into the parking lot, everyone cheered and St. Clair did not waste any time to hug her son. "You did great," St. Clair told him.

Their mission was to provide medical care for detainees at Camp Bucca. When they first arrived, there were nearly 14,000 detainees to take care of. By the time they, the number was down to 180. "Sometimes it's hard to care for someone who maybe has taken part in killing somebody, one of our service members or something like that," said Sgt. Simpson, a patient administration specialist who took care of medical records.

Major Teresa Preston, commander of the 1163rd said she is proud of her company. Preston said she may give up her command in February, something that it is going to be tough for her because she is proud of the work done by the 1163rd. "Once you've commanded these guys, you just can't go anywhere else. There's no place else once you've been on 1163rd."

With the mission is done and the troops back home, many said they are ready to get back into the routine of things. Lorena Simpson said her daughter had a special request. "She said the first thing she wanted was some pancakes," Simpson laughed. "I guess we're going to go home and have pancakes."

Major Preston said Camp Bucca will be turned over to Iraqi control, but she did not know when that would be.

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