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Happy homecoming for Vt. Guard members - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Happy homecoming for Vt. Guard members

Essex Junction, Vermont - December 23, 2009

Preparations for the arrival of more than 300 Vermont Guard soldiers started before the sun was up.

"I got here at six," said Christy Decell of Enosburgh.

But Decell and other families would have to wait several hours. Charter buses carrying their loved ones home from training in Indiana were delayed by snowfall.

"I've been waiting for two weeks-- it's been a long two weeks!" Decell exclaimed.

But when the buses finally wheeled in mid-morning... more waiting for Christy Decell. Which vehicle was her husband on? And would she be able to find him quickly? Especially with so many other families trying to pick their soldiers out of this sea of camouflage. But finally, after more than two weeks and those last few grueling hours of slow travel, the hug from Sgt. Travis Decell makes the wait worthwhile.

"Still made it home safe," he said. "That's all the matters."

Sgt. Decell came home through Operation Holiday Homecoming. It funded the charter buses with about $175,000 in donations.

"I just planned on having Christmas by myself if he couldn't come home for Christmas," Christy Decell explained.

But because of the free bus trip the couple will get to celebrate their first Christmas with little Tristan and still have money left to buy presents.

"We appreciate it a lot. We really do," Sgt. Decell said.

"I'm just so grateful that we have a community that cares about the men and women in uniform," said Maj. Gen. Michael Dubie, the commander of the Vt. National Guard.

For the Decells and the other Vermont Guard soldiers, nine days with their friends and families is a holiday gift they'll remember long after the visit ends.

The soldiers will be back on charter buses New Year's Day for more training before Mission: Afghanistan. For their loved ones it will mean more planning for the next homecoming.

Jack Thurston - WCAX News

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