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Hundreds Of Nat'l Guard Red Bulls Welcomed Home

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. (WCCO) -- It's a day many Minnesota families have dreamed about for an entire year: More Minnesota National Guard Red Bulls are now home.

The homecoming stretched from Anoka to Winona, with 11 buses carrying more than 220 soldiers from 1st Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division.

Nikki Williams, 13, waited for her mom, Sgt. Erin Cochran, at the Bloomington Armory Friday night.

"She missed my first year in junior high school, one of my biggest birthday parties ever," she said. "It's more like hugs and kisses good night isn't there anymore. When you are at dinner, you don't get to talk about your day with your mom. You don't get to see, like, her face."

Williams said her grandmother moved in during the deployment to take care of her and her older sister.

Margaret Cochran said continually waited for phone calls and tried to keep her granddaughters busy.

"I am glued to my computer, I don't have to be glued to my computer anymore," she said, because the family often relied on Skype to communicate.

This was the ninth wave of Minnesota Red Bulls to come home in the past few weeks. They spent the past year in Kuwait during the final phase of the Iraq War.

Williams fought back tears as the bus carrying her mom honked before pulling to a stop. More than a dozen soldiers filed off before she found her.

"It's been an entire year," said Cochran, who hopes it's her first and last deployment.

Cochran said the hardest part was not seeing her two daughters' faces every day.

Rachel Sande, of Hudson, Wis. found the man that will soon make her a bride, Specialist Nicholas Dewey, of Fairbault, who proposed just before he deployed.

He said he was nervous as the bus rolled up, until he saw Sande holding her sign.

"I thought she looked beautiful," said Dewey.

Williams' greatest moment came when was when it was all over when her family packed up and headed home.

"I love her and I don't want her to go away anymore," she said.

Minnesota Red Bull soldiers also returned to Brooklyn Park, St. Cloud, Owatonna, Albert Lea, Austin, Rochester, Mankato and West. St. Paul.

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