Heroes Come Home: Soldiers return from peacekeeping mission in Kosovo

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MILWAUKEE (AP) -- About 125 Wisconsin soldiers serving a year-long deployment in support of NATO peacekeeping missions in Kosovo returned to Milwaukee Thursday, September 27th.

The soldiers from Headquarters Company, 157th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade and the 32nd Military Police Company are returning to the 128th Refueling Wing at Mitchell International Airport Thursday. Gov. Scott Walker, senior National Guard officials and family members are on hand for the homecoming.

People from all walks of life waited together Thursday for their loved ones to return home. Sonya Graves waited for her son, Collette Murphy, for her husband, and Zachary Schilz for his girlfriend.

"It's been tough, but we've made it through. It's been tough. I miss her a lot. I love her like crazy," Schilz said of his girlfriend.

"The girls are really looking forward to spending some Daddy time. It was hard having him away, but I also learned a lot about myself and my inner strength," Murphy said of her husband.

The soldiers left Wisconsin last fall to support the NATO Kosovo Force. Their mission was to maintain a secure environment in Kosovo.

"I'm grateful the soldiers are coming home to see their families and I`m grateful that they went and served their country," Graves said.

Family members said they look forward to having their loved ones home again.

"I want us to sit down together as a family -- just fellowship," Graves said.

One by one on Thursday afternoon, soldiers were reunited with their loved ones, after a year overseas.

"To see your family for the first time, it's a really awesome, heartwarming experience," Sean Murphy said.

"Now that we're home, it's all over with -- mission complete. It's good to be back," another soldier said.

700 other American soldiers were stationed with the Wisconsin National Guard troops, as well as soldiers from six European countries.

Soldiers from two West Bend-based aviation units who were also part of the Kosovo deployment returned to Wisconsin earlier this month.