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The troops are back

Members of the 1st Brigade Team, 34th Red Bull Infantry Division, waved to a crowd that gathered on the sidewalks of Broadway Monday to welcome the troops home. Photo by Al Edenloff.6 / 9
Crowds lined the 7th Avenue area of Broadway to welcome troops. Photo by Al Edenloff.7 / 9
Connor Stine kept an American flag in his overalls pocket as he waited for dad, Michael. Photo by Crystal Dey.8 / 9
Vanessa and Peyton Polack are reunited with Specialist Steven Polack at the Runestone Community Center. Crystal Dey | Echo Press9 / 9

We knew it was going to happen soon and on Monday we found out when.

Four buses rolled into Alexandria around 1 p.m. reuniting Alpha Company of the Minnesota National Guard Red Bull soldiers with family and friends after a year-long deployment in Kuwait.

People sat waiting on benches lining Broadway and along the way to the Runestone Community Center (RCC) where the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 34th Red Bull Infantry Division was welcomed home. The now faded yellow ribbons that were put up when the division was sent off last year remained.

"We didn't want to put up new ribbons just because they are coming home," said Kelly Brown with Family Readiness Group. The ribbons withstood the elements and time just as the guard members had done overseas.

Wives, all dolled up, awaiting the return of their husbands, received periodic text messages on how long it would be before they saw one another in person.

Newlywed Tracy Martin waited anxiously for her husband, George. The couple survived their first year of marriage via Skype - when it would work - and handwritten letters.

"He's home for good now," Tracy said. And when he gets home, he'll probably want to go to sleep, she added. The Red Bulls had been awake all night.

As the procession of fire trucks and motorcycles turned the corner, a wave of excitement erupted from the crowd. It appeared every fire department in Douglas County joined the line-up along with law enforcement and emergency vehicles.

Approximately 135 guard members marched into the RCC. Mayor H. Dan Ness, Alexandria city councilmember and organizer of the welcome home ceremony, Owen Miller, and Douglas County Commissioner Bev Bales, chair of Beyond the Yellow Ribbon, expressed their gratitude before Commander Chris Brossart dismissed the soldiers.

The second that Brossart completed the word, "dismissed," family rushed forward from the stands and soldiers met them halfway with hugs, kisses and tears.

Prior to the soldiers' arrival, family members heard the National Anthem and Ciara Drexler performed Civilian Song.

Follow #AlexMN @EchoPress reporter Crystal Dey on Twitter at @CrystalDey_Echo.

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Crystal Dey

Crystal Dey is a staff reporter for the Echo Press. Originally from Minnesota’s Iron Range, Dey worked for newspapers in North Dakota, Florida and Connecticut before returning to her home state to join the Echo Press in October 2011. Dey studied Mass Communications at Minnesota State University Moorhead with an emphasis in Online Journalism. Follow Staff Reporter Crystal Dey on Twitter @Crystal_Dey.

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