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Hero's welcome greets returning troops

OLIVIA -- Olivia and neighboring, Renville County communities joined to give the first returning troops with the 1st Battalion, 151st Field Artillery a noisy and jubilant hero's welcome on Friday morning.

The 111 troops with Battery B based in Olivia and Madison rolled into Olivia right on schedule at 10 a.m. Some 550 troops are making their way home from Fort McCoy, Wis., today and tomorrow.

People lining U.S. Highway 212 in Olivia waved flags and cheered above the blare of sirens and horns from a couple dozen squad cars, fire trucks and ambulance rigs leading the four busses.

The 56 troops from the Madison Armory continued on to a hero's welcome there, while family and friends of the 55 Olivia based soldiers packed the BOLD High School gymnasium.

The jubilation was all about the fact that the troops were returning home safely from their one year deployment.

"Flawlessly,'' is how Captain Jamie Thompson, commander of the battery, described the soldiers' performance. Based in Kuwait, the troops provided convoy escort security throughout Iraq. They completed 591 combat missions and traveled more than 1.9 million miles without accident or injury.

Some 20 people were cheering and holding "welcome home Andy'' signs to greet Guardsman Andy Tepfer of Battery B as he stepped off the bus in front of the high school. The excited group included his mother, Annie Tepfer. "There is nothing better than to know your child is safe,'' she said.

Similar scenes are sure to be repeated on Saturday, as the units based in Montevideo, Appleton, Morris, and Ortonville return.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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