Local soldiers honored for their service

Local soldiers honored for their service
By: CJ Cassidy
CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. - A ceremonial freedom salute in Cape Girardeau this weekend honors men and women who risked their lives in the name of freedom.
It's a welcome home celebration about four months in the making, for more than fifty soldiers with the Missouri Army National Guard who returned home from Iraq in November.
As family members proudly looked on, the soldiers with the 110th Engineer Battalion, picked up tokens of appreciation for their service in Iraq. "It's nice to be recognized. Sometimes when you're over there, and you forget what you're fighting for if you don't talk to your family everyday," Specialist Aaron Wilson says.
National Guard leaders realize the importance of family, so among the tokens, soldiers received special pins to hand out to loved ones.
Sgt. First Class Gloria Kies gave one of her pins to her mother. "She's been there for me, and helped me get back in my house. Their love and care is helping me make it through,' she said, holding back tears. "If you don't have family standing behind you, you have nothing," her mother, Ruth Langston added.
Specialist Wilson knows how painful it can be not to have someone to lean on. His best friend and fellow soldier, Josh McHugh died in a car wreck a month after they returned from Iraq. "It's hard to put my uniform on without him at my side," he says. "We lost some really good soldiers. They're family, we lost family members," Kies says.
And it isn't just the memories that are tough to deal with. "It's hard to adjust with family and friends - after a month they expect us to come back to the civilians we were before, and it's not possible. It's a long process,' Wilson says.
Soldiers say ceremonies like the Freedom Salute, help them cope with the process of re-adjusting.
In Iraq, soldiers with the 110th Engineer Battalion cleared roads and maintained supply routes.
Here at home, they say even a trip to the store can be stressful because they have to get used to it all over again.