Therrrre back!!
Note: View Pictures of the return of Bravo Battery


Tears, cheers greet 109th’s Bravo Battery in Nanticoke
By BONNIE ADAMS-badams@leader.net

Capt. Walter Ohl was holding his 1-year-old son Tuesday when a soldier’s mother approached him during the emotional homecoming for the 109th Field Artillery’s Bravo Battery.
“Thank you for bringing my son home,” Rita Kania told Ohl.
Kania said she felt obligated to express her gratitude to Ohl, who commanded the soldiers in Iraq. “He said he was going to bring them home and he did.”
The Mountain Top woman was among more than 500 mothers, wives, children and veterans who waited nearly three hours in the Greater Nanticoke Area High School gym to welcome the Nanticoke-based unit’s 126 members.
Spc. James Kania and fellow soldiers clad in desert camouflage uniforms streamed into the gym at 1:47 p.m. The standing crowd greeted them with thunderous applause, whistles and shouts.
The National Guardsmen arrived from Fort Dix, N.J., where they had spent the past week after traveling from the Middle East.
The gym was awash in red, white and blue balloons and posters and a huge paper American flag bearing each soldier’s name. Spc. Bill Marusak became emotional as he held his 18-month-old daughter, Abigail. “It’s just good being home,” he said. The Honey Pot Fire Company No. 6 held a parade in Marusak’s honor Tuesday afternoon.
Jaycee Arnold, 2½, stuck her finger in the icing of an American flag birthday cake for her father. Spc. Steve Arnold of Hunlock Creek said he wants to catch up on what he’s missed in his daughter’s life.
Across the gym, Yvonne Bruza of Nanticoke and a group of her son’s friends wore homemade red, white and blue tie-dyed T-shirts so her son could easily spot them. “It’s a relief, a big relief,” she said.
Bruza said a pan of lasagna was warming in the oven for her son, Spc. Ronald Bruza. The Christmas tree is still up at home and her son’s presents are waiting.
Eleanor Walters of Weatherly wore a red, white and blue tinsel headpiece to celebrate her grandson’s return. She said the family used to call Spc. Nicholas Walters “brave boy” when he was young. “I’m so proud of every one of them,” she said.
When asked about Iraq, some soldiers expressed optimism. “The people do want things to be better,” Kania said, adding that conditions there are improving.
Ohl said he is heartened by the number of Iraqis who had the courage to vote in the Jan. 30 election. “That’s the greatest thing in the world to see.” Ohl said he envisions Iraq eventually being the strongest U.S. ally in the Middle East.
A Korean War Veterans of the Wyoming Valley group attended the homecoming. “We all went through what they went through,” said Peter Perdikis of Swoyersville, who served in Korea in 1952.
“It’s been a rough year on all of us,” said Janice Burge of Exeter. She said she was in the hospital when her son, Sgt. Robert Burge, deployed. The mother said his return will relieve a year’s worth of worry.
Lt. Col. Dwight Lydic, former commander of the 109th, attended the homecoming. “You send them away. You have to see them back.”

Soldiers told: 'You did a great job'
By Denise Allabaugh , Citizens' Voice Staff Writer

Capt. Bob Ohl, commander of Bravo Battery of the 109th Field Artillery, received a roar of applause Tuesday as he gave the order to 1st Sgt. Francis Poperowitz to dismiss 125 soldiers for the last time.
Ohl said the welcome home parade and celebration at Greater Nanticoke Area High School was "overwhelming."
"It is more than we expected. There are hundreds of communities throughout the U.S. doing the exact same thing.
That's what it's all about. Communities from the United States of America doing what it takes to defend America."
Lt. Col. Michael Evans, battalion commander of the 109th Field Artillery, spoke over a loud crowd cheering, "USA! USA!," to welcome soldiers home.
"You did a great job," Evans told the soldiers. "I know you're all excited to see your family and friends."
Lt. Col. Dwight Lydic, former battalion commander of the 109th Field Artillery, called the 125 Bravo Battery soldiers "the best soldiers in the world."
"They're great Americans," Lydic said. "They've done one heck of a job. Everyone should be extremely proud of them. They're the best of the best."
Nanticoke Mayor John Toole thanked the soldiers for their one year of service in Iraq.
"We're glad to have you back," Toole said. "You did your job. You did it well and you did it with honor."

109th soldiers receive a big welcome home
By Denise Allabaugh and Robert Kalinowski , Citizens' Voice Staff Writers

Spc. Gene Everett's eyes swelled with tears. Spc. Ron Bruza began to shake, his heart in overdrive. 1st Lt. Cliff Morales had flashbacks to his teenage years.
During their high school days, these three soldiers took gym class on the floor. From school dances to basketball games, many memories were made on the surface.
From now on, they'll remember it as the place where they began the rest of their life after a yearlong call to war in Iraq.
Everett, Bruza, Morales and the rest of the guardsmen from Nanticoke-based Bravo Battery of the 109th Field Artillery marched into the gymnasium of Greater Nanticoke Area High School at about 2 p.m. Tuesday.
They were greeted by about 1,300 friends and family packed shoulder-to-shoulder inside the gym, waving flags, cheering on and holding up signs like "Home Sweet Home 109th."
The 125-man unit quickly gathered on the gym floor for the final formation of their long assignment that began in January 2004.
After brief comments from several dignitaries, expressing their appreciation, the soldiers were brought to attention by 1st Sgt. Frank Poperowitz, the unit's highest-ranking enlisted soldier.
Within seconds, words of relief then echoed throughout the building.
"All right, you've been waiting all year - DISMISSED!" shouted the 53-year-old Poperowitz, a resident of Shickshinny.
In unison, the soldiers then responded with an affirmative "Hoo-ahh!"
And with that, the Bravo Battery's epic journey to war was officially complete. They were free to disperse among family and friends and rejoice in being home.
Just as some soldiers and their families embraced, the Greater Nanticoke Area Chorus sang a manufactured version of Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA":
From Nanticoke down to Kingston and Wilkes-Barre, PA, there's pride in every American heart and it's time we stand and say: I'm proud to be an American ...
Sgt. Kris Petrosky, his eyes filled with tears of joy and pride, immediately ran toward his wife and four children, Kristal, 15, Courtney,14, Kris Jr.,8, and his 8-month-old son, Sean.
While in Iraq, Petrosky missed Sean's birth, but was able to come home briefly four days after he was born. Since Petrosky left for Iraq, he missed the first time his 8-month-old son crawled, sat up on his own, and held his own bottle. He missed his other three children's birthday parties. He also missed his daughter Kristal's first prom.
"It is great to see my wife, the baby and my kids. It is a big relief," Petrosky said.
"If you don't have a loved one over there, other families don't realize what we've been through this past year," said Mrs. Petrosky.
Capt. Bob Ohl, Bravo Battery commander, received a warm welcome from his wife, Ginny, daughters, Alycea, 8, and Marissa, 6, and son, Robert, who will celebrate his first birthday Feb. 9.
Mrs. Ohl was induced into labor prior to her husband's departure for Iraq. He was only able to spend a short time with his newborn son, who has since grown eight teeth.
"It was hard because he missed the whole first year of his life," Mrs. Ohl said. "We were hoping he would make it home for his first birthday and he did. He hasn't taken his first step yet. He was holding off until his dad came home. We want to see if he will walk to him."
Mr. and Mrs. Ohl kept in touch this last year by phone, daily e-mails and a new Web cam, speaking about the couple's children.
"He was on the other side of the world and we still kept in touch," Mrs. Ohl said. "I would be up early in the morning downloading pictures and getting them over to him in Iraq."
Mrs. Ohl said she and her family drove 170 miles from
Corning, N.Y., to welcome home her husband. She was happy she finally would have some help at home.
"I wish I had a dollar for every time someone in the supermarket said I have my hands full," Mrs. Ohl said.
Harold and Linda Burritt of Wilkes-Barre were overjoyed to welcome home their son, Spc. Kevin Burritt, a New York City police officer.
"I sent my husband to war in Vietnam and it is a totally different thing sending your son off to war," Mrs. Burritt said. "It has been a very stressful year. I have so many mixed emotions. I've been crying all day. I'm glad that it's over."
Bravo Battery's trip home began at about 10:30 a.m. at the Army base at Fort Dix, N.J., when they boarded three charter buses. At about 1:15 p.m., they arrived in the Hanover Industrial Park, where a parade to Nanticoke was organized.
They were then escorted to Greater Nanticoke Area High School by at about 45 local emergency vehicles. Several people greeted the soldiers at the entrance to Nanticoke.
The buses then traveled along East Main Street to Kosciuszko Street, where they made a left turn toward the school.
Nanticoke Police Officer Kevin Grevera estimated about 2,000 people lined Kosciuszko Street to Union Street, where the buses turned into the high school grounds.
"It was a wild ride. I couldn't believe the turnout. It warmed our hearts," said 1st Lt. Neil Ravitz, 27, of Orwisburg.
"That was phenomenal. We expected a few people with a few flags, but not this," said Petrosky.

Soldiers feel democracy could take root in Iraq
By Robert Kalinowski , Citizens' Voice Staff Writer

Though he's happy to be back with family and friends, Spc. John Sedon said he had "mixed emotions" to leave Iraq.
The reason, he said, is because he made some lasting friendships with Iraqis during his one-year tour.
"I wish I could show you pictures of some of the people I met there. I'm glad I was there," said the 29-year-old from Plains Township.
Sedon said he believes there's a good chance Sunday's elections, the first in the country in half a century, will help quell the deadly insurgency that has hindered the work of U.S. troops.
If one looked at a map of Iraq, 75 percent of the country is pacified and a minority of the people in the other 25 percent are the one's causing problems, he said.
Sedon said most insurgents U.S. forces deal with actually aren't Iraqis, but are from neighboring countries like, Syria, Iran and Egypt.
Lt. Col. Michael Evans, the new battalion commander of the 109th Field Artillery, credited Bravo Battery's efforts with helping the elections even become a reality.
"They did a superb job in Iraq. I am proud of them. They set the conditions and helped stabilize the country for those elections to be held," Evans said. "These guys will have their place in history for the job they did."
Capt. Bob Ohl, the commanding officer of Bravo Battery in Iraq, said his only regret about the unit's tour in Iraq is it didn't last long enough for them to be there for the Iraqi elections.
Most of the unit watched the television reports of the election unfold Sunday and Monday while in demobilization at an Army base at Fort Dix, N.J.
"We watched the elections the last two days on TV. It's great to see they had such a good turnout," said 1st Lt. Neil Ravitz, 27, of Orwisburg.
Iraqis walking miles to the poll sites, defying threats to be killed, and proudly showed off their ink stained fingers - a sign they had voted -was "a hopeful sign," said Ravitz.
"I think we were successful. From what I've heard, turnout was pretty high, so that a good sign for the future," said Spc. Matt Lipo, 36, of Dallas.
Sgt. Rich Chestnut, 26, Ricketts Glen, thinks Iraq could sustain a democracy if the civilians, who want it, overcome the insurgents.
"We're there basically to help them out until then," Chestnut said. "The (civilian) people are just like everybody else. They want everything everybody else does."
Some of those things are things Americans take for granted, like running water, clothes, and even food, said Cpl. Kevin Burritt, 27, Staten Island, N.Y.
"I really didn't know what to expect in the beginning. I learned a lot about things. Some people in America think all Iraqis are bad, but they're not," he said.
Spc. James Kania, 20, Mountain Top, knows there's reason to be unsure about what will happen.
"You see good and bad on the news each day for more than a year. I can tell you I was there for a year and it just got better," Kania said.
Bravo Battery learned how to adapt to working with Iraqi police, national guardsman, interpreters and civilians, Kania added.
Only time will tell if their efforts will make a true difference in stopping the insurgency, he said, but "if nothing else we made the life of the Iraqi people better."
1st Lt. Cliff Morales judges the year long tour by one thing.
"I'd say everything we did was a success, because we brought all our troops home safe," he said. "Everyday was a duty day and everything nigh was a duty night. You were never not working."
Only at Fort Dix did they have a chance to realize, and reflect about, what they did and what it might do in the future, Morales said.
"From what we've seen from watching TV yesterday is that they came out and supported it," he said.
The hard part for the Iraqis is now at the forefront, Morales said. "They need to take control of their destiny and their democracy."

Bravo Battery's homecoming today
By Denise Allabaugh , Citizens' Voice Staff Writer

Parade set for noon through Nanticoke
After one year in a war zone in Iraq, 125 soldiers from Bravo Battery of the 109th Field Artillery finally will return home today.
Greater Nanticoke Area High School officials and students decorated the high school gym Monday to prepare for a big welcome home parade and celebration, which will be held today at noon.
Students hung big banners and yellow ribbons in the gym and painted flags and red, white and blue stars on the school's windows.
Eric Bieski, a Greater Nanticoke Area High School class president, said all students wanted to do their part to welcome the soldiers home.
"The whole school really got into this," Bieski said. "Sophomores have been busy making the banners. Juniors were in charge of the yellow ribbons, which symbolize our support for the troops. Even eighth and ninth graders have been helping."
Frank Grevera, director of buildings and grounds, and school director Cindy Donlin were busy preparing red, white and blue bunting.
"We have hundreds of yellow ribbons, 140 patriotic stars and about 3,000 balloons. We're going to hand the balloons out to people to release," Grevera said.
Soldiers are expected to depart Fort Dix, N.J., before 10 a.m. Tuesday. They will travel on the turnpike to Route 115 to Interstate 81 to Route 29.
Fire trucks from Nanticoke, Sugar Notch, Hanover Township, Sweet Valley, Exeter and West Pittston will meet Nanticoke police and state police and other service vehicles Tuesday morning at Keyco in Hanover Industrial Park. The soldiers will be on three buses.
The parade of vehicles will proceed onto the Sans Souci Parkway up East Main Street to Kosciuszko Street in Nanticoke to Greater Nanticoke Area High School, where the balloons will be released.
A short program will follow inside the high school gym, featuring speakers Col. Dwight Lydic, former battalion commander; Col. Michael Evans, current commander; Capt. Robert Ohl, Bravo Battery commander, and Nanticoke Mayor John Toole.
Greater Nanticoke Area High School sophomore Matt Guzenski is especially excited about the celebration today. His brother, Nick, is one of the soldiers returning from Iraq.
Nick, the son of James and Delana Guzenski, joined the 109th during his junior year at Greater Nanticoke Area High School. He also has a sister, Molly.
He was called to serve in the war while he was attending Johnson Technical Institute in Scranton, where he was learning to be a diesel mechanic.
"I was shocked. I never thought that would happen to my brother," Matt said.
Nick's father, a Navy veteran, said he knew there was a chance he might get called to war, but he was quick to add, "I was not prepared for him to go."
Nick celebrated his 19th birthday in Iraq. His family is thrilled he will be home to celebrate his 20th birthday on Feb. 26.
"After he gets home, we will let him relax for a while, and then we will probably throw a party for him once he gets settled," Matt said.
Matt and his family kept in touch with Nick while he was in Iraq. They were relieved to hear from him once he arrived in Bangor, Maine, before Fort Dix, N.J., last week, his father said.
"He didn't really want to talk about what was going on in Iraq," Matt said. "He was more interested in what was going on here."

Bruza family ready to celebrate return of their soldier
By Denise Allabaugh , Citizens' Voice Staff Writer

Tara and Elizabeth Bruza flew from Las Vegas, Nev., to Nanticoke to welcome home their brother, Ronnie, from Iraq.
Ronnie, 23, son of Ron and Yvonne Bruza of Nanticoke, is one of the 125 soldiers of Bravo Battery of the 109th Field Artillery returning home today.
In front of the Bruza home, ribbons, bows, flags and signs welcome him home. The Bruzas also decorated their block with ribbons and bows.
"Our home has been decorated since he left," Mrs. Bruza said. "We didn't put decorations up for Christmas because we have so many decorations."
Ronnie is a graduate of Greater Nanticoke Area High School, where he was vice president of his junior and senior class and captain of the football team.
He joined the 109th on Sept. 11, 2001, the same day as the terrorist attacks. He was majoring in elementary education at King's College when he was called to war.
Whenever the Bruza family saw a bombing on the news, they worried about Ronnie.
"We never thought he would be called to war," Mrs. Bruza said. "It has been a tough year. I have been having nightmares. Every time the news came on, I would worry. I didn't know where he was and he couldn't tell us where he was."
On Monday, the Bruzas were preparing to place flags at Mill Memorial Library in Nanticoke in honor of each soldier coming home today. The Nanticoke American Legion Post 350 donated the flags.
The Bruza family plans to wear tie-dyed "welcome home" shirts for today's parade.
"We had our guard up for a year. Now, it's starting to come down. The anxiety is starting to come down," Mrs. Bruza said. "I'm more nervous and excited now."
Since Ronnie missed Christmas at home, the Bruzas did not take down their Christmas tree. It is decorated with yellow ribbons.
The Bruzas were pleased they were able to keep in touch with Ronnie while he was in Iraq.
Mrs. Bruza was relieved when she heard from Ronnie last week when he arrived in Bangor, Maine, prior to Fort Dix, N.J.
"One good experience from this is we did have a lot of communication by phone and the computer. If I didn't hear from him in two weeks, I would worry," Mrs. Bruza said. "In World War I, World War War II, Vietnam and Korea, I don't know how people got by not hearing from their loved ones in months."
Since he left, Tara Bruza slept with her cellular telephone.
"No matter what hour the phone rang, I jumped up and grabbed it," she said. "You never knew when he would be able to call."
Not only did Ronnie miss his family and friends, but he also missed his bulldog, Roxie, and his Jeep, his family said.

Anxiety at fever pitch for soldiers' families
By Tom Venesky , Citizens' Voice Staff Writer

A feeling of relief has replaced the sleepless nights and days of worry for Honey Pot resident Chet Kopco.
His son, Spc. Nicholas Kopco, of Hunlock Creek, a member of the 1st Battalion, 109th Field Artillery, Bravo Battery in Nanticoke, has returned to Fort Dix with his fellow soldiers after spending a year in Iraq. There were plenty of tense moments for the elder Kopco while his son was in Iraq, including an incident when his son's Humvee hit an IED (improvised explosive device).
Kopco said his son, who received a "few scratches" from the IED, is looking forward to seeing his new son, Alexander, who was born last August.
But the relief Kopco feels now will be nothing like the feeling he'll experience when his son arrives in Nanticoke.
"All the time spent watching the news and staying awake at night - all that is gone," Kopco said. "Knowing he is back is like nothing else I've ever experienced."
Susan Mishanski of Hanover Township can relate to what Kopco is feeling. Her son, Spc. Brian Martin, will also arrive home with the rest of Bravo Battery on Tuesday. She said it's a big relief to have her son leave Iraq shortly before Sunday's elections.
"I just want to look at him again and hear his voice," Mishanski said. "He's going to want us to act like he was never gone, that's the type of person he is.
"He wanted to do what he had to for his country, now he's anxious to get home."
And the Wyoming Valley is anxious to welcome the soldiers back.
Kopco said the Honey Pot Volunteer Active Fire Co. will hold a parade on Tuesday for Spc. William Marusak, who is a volunteer with the fire department.
A fire engine will pick up Marusak when he arrives in Nanticoke and bring him back to Honey Pot, where residents have decorated their homes with ribbons and flags.
"It's a huge deal here. At least half of Honey Pot is decorated and they'll be standing along the streets to welcome him back," Kopco said.
Mishanski, who is a member of the 109th Family Readiness Group, said the group's members have spent countless hours decorating for the soldiers' homecoming parade to Nanticoke.
When the soldiers leave Fort Dix Tuesday, they will travel on the Pennsylvania Turnpike to Route 115 to Interstate 81 to Route 29.
Fire trucks from Nanticoke, Sugar Notch, Hanover Township, Sweet Valley, Exeter and West Pittston will meet Nanticoke police and state police and other service vehicles Tuesday morning in the parking lot of Keyco Distributors in Hanover Industrial Park. The soldiers will arrive in buses.
The parade of vehicles will proceed onto the South Cross Valley Expressway to the Sans Souci Parkway up East Main Street to Kosciuszko Street in Nanticoke to Greater Nanticoke Area High School, where 2,200 balloons will be released.
"We spent a lot of time on it but we had a lot of help," Mishanski said.|
Strong friendships have evolved from the group, she said, and the support has been invaluable. The group will continue to meet after the soldiers arrive home.
"The support group definitely made a difference and it helps when you can talk to somebody else who is going through the same thing, rather than being alone and thinking about it all the time," Mishanski said.
"We have all become friends and stuck together, which is what this group is all about."

Getting ready for Bravo
By JON FOX-jfox@leader.net

NANTICOKE - There was an unmistakable glint in Jennifer Sorber's eyes.
"I'm so excited."
After a year of deployment in Iraq, Sorber's husband, with the rest of the 109th Field Artillery Bravo Battery, will return home to the Wyoming Valley next week.
A member of the Busy Bees support group for military families, Sorber gathered with school officials, city and military officials at the Greater Nanticoke Area High School on Wednesday to finalize plans for a homecoming parade Tuesday.
The celebration has been in the works since October.
After their two-hour bus ride from Fort Dix in New Jersey, 120 members of Bravo will cruise through downtown Nanticoke at about noon escorted by fire trucks and welcomed by students lining the streets.
"They'll be waving flags and cheering the guys as they return," said Thomas Kubasek, principal of the high school.
Among the homecoming soldiers are 19 Nanticoke graduates, Kubasek said.
"We want these guys when they're coming home to see a whole community supporting them," said Anthony Perrone, school superintendent.
The fire trucks and three buses filled with soldiers will circle the high school, and then the members of Bravo Battery will file into the gymnasium for a 20-minute ceremony.
"The main thing on the soldiers' mind is getting back to the Valley," said 1st Sgt. Steve Stempien, a member of the battalion who was not dispatched to Iraq.
The presentation will be limited to four speakers, the former and current battalion commanders, the battery commander and Nanticoke Mayor John Toole.
A second, longer celebration is scheduled for July 22 at the 109th Field Artillery Armory in Wilkes-Barre, Stempien said.
Bravo Battery arrived at Fort Dix Tuesday after a year in southern Iraq with posts in Sadr City and later supporting convoys. The Alpha Battery is expected to return the second week of February.
The mayor has asked that residents display flags to show support for the returning troops.


What: Welcome home celebration
When: A
round noon Tuesday. The precise time depends on when the buses from Fort Dix, N.J., arrive in Nanticoke.
Where: Greater Nanticoke Area High School. Buses and fire trucks will arrive at the high school via Kosciuszko Street for a balloon release and brief ceremony. Parking is available at the high school and nearby Mill Memorial Library on East Main Street.

Nanticoke rolling out red carpet for returning soldiers
By Denise Allabaugh , Citizens' Voice Staff Writer

After one year of service in Iraq, soldiers from Bravo Battery of the 109th Field Artillery will be welcomed home with a parade in Nanticoke on Tuesday, Feb. 1, at noon.
About 120 soldiers will depart Fort Dix, N.J., that morning at 10, said Jen Sorber, president of Busy B's Support Group.
Sorber, wife of Sgt. 1st Class Jaime Sorber, was excited and relieved when she spoke to her husband Tuesday at 6:30 a.m. when he got off the plane in Bangor, Maine, before he departed for Fort Dix.
"He sounded happier than I ever heard him sound," Sorber said.
Sorber joined other family members of soldiers, Sgt. Steve Stempien and Capt. Gerard Wrazien of the 109th Field Artillery, Nanticoke city and school officials, police, students and veterans Wednesday at Greater Nanticoke Area High School to plan the parade to welcome soldiers home.
When soldiers leave Fort Dix Tuesday, they will travel on the turnpike to Route 115 to Interstate 81 to Route 29.
Fire trucks from Nanticoke, Sugar Notch, Hanover Township, Sweet Valley, Exeter and West Pittston will meet Nanticoke police and state police and other service vehicles Tuesday morning in the parking lot of Keyco Distributors in Hanover Industrial Park. The soldiers will be in buses.
The parade of vehicles will proceed onto the South Cross Valley Expressway to the Sans Souci Parkway up East Main Street to Kosciuszko Street in Nanticoke to Greater Nanticoke Area High School, where 2,200 balloons will be released, Sorber said.
A short program will follow inside the high school gym, featuring speakers Col. Dwight Lydic, former battalion commander; Col. Michael Evans, commander; Capt. Robert Ohl, Bravo Battery commander, and Nanticoke Mayor John Toole.
"We are going to roll out the red carpet," Toole said. "I know a lot of the soldiers. I was hearing horror stories. It was scary there for a while. We support them and we are happy to welcome them back."
According to Sorber, about 3,100 mini-flags were distributed and 400 ribbons were hung in preparation for the parade. Students will hang more than 30 big banners, she said.
She encouraged the public to support the troops by attending the parade and hanging patriotic decorations.
Tom Kubasek, principal of Greater Nanticoke Area High School, said students in grades 2-12 will wave flags and cheer for the soldiers as they return home. On Wednesday, students were preparing to hang banners in the gym.
"This will let soldiers know that we supported them the whole time they were gone," Kubasek said. "It gives students the opportunity to be a part of this and to welcome them back. Some students have relatives over there and they can't wait to see them after such a long period of time."
Nineteen graduates of Greater Nanticoke Area High School are among the soldiers returning home.
"We are thrilled they are coming home safely after such a dangerous mission," Kubasek said. "There will be a lot of flag waving and cheering and smiling faces."
Nanticoke resident Vince Sicurella, who attended Wednesday's parade preparation meeting, said he is thrilled his 20-year-old son, Christopher, is finally coming home from Iraq.
He and his wife, Ladye Gerle, spoke to their son Tuesday morning when he arrived in Bangor, Maine, before he left for Fort Dix.
"We heard the relief in his voice," Sicurella said. "He didn't have the tension in his voice that he did when he was in Iraq."
Exeter resident Tami Cannell, another member of the Busy B's Support Group who joined the parade preparations, cannot wait to welcome home her husband, Raymond. Their three children, Nicholas, 7 and 6-year-old twins Noah and Breanna are eager to see their father, she said.
"It has been stressful," Cannell said. "We're always hoping and wishing he is safe. I had to live another life, picking up his role in everything."
On Tuesday, Cannell spoke to her husband, who was relieved to be back in the United States.
"He was exhausted. He said it was a long day," she said.

109th Bravo Battery back in U.S.
By Chris Birk , Times-Shamrock Newspapers

FORT DIX, N.J. - His life interrupted by a call to war, Spc. Ron Bruza now gets a second shot at his teaching degree.
After a year spent patrolling the perilous streets of Sadr City, Baghdad and scores of other Iraqi cities and insurgent strongholds, the Yetter brothers gained a new sense of kinship.
And all of Bravo Battery of the 109th Field Artillery got one step closer to home Tuesday morning.
Welcomed with a taste of Americana - hot dogs and red, white and blue jelly beans - the Wilkes-Barre-based Pennsylvania Army National Guard unit returned stateside Tuesday morning from a year-long tour in Iraq.
About 120 Bravo soldiers touched down at 9 a.m. at McGuire Air Force Base, which abuts this sprawling military post about 135 miles southeast of Wilkes-Barre.
Alpha Battery of the 109th is expected to return next month, but no date has set, Fort Dix officials said. In all, about 500 soldiers landed at McGuire on Tuesday, the next-to-last leg on their respective journeys home.
"Touching down today, just seeing the guys' faces and expression, it was great," said Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Lukashewski of Wilkes-Barre. "We left as a unit and came back a family. I think we as a unit have a sense of pride in what we accomplished."
Bravo Battery landed in Iraq in March. Weeks later, the unit scoured the mean streets of "Sadr City," the huge Baghdad slum ruled by radical Islamic cleric, Muqtada al- Sadr. They spent the remainder of their tour at a classified military camp in northern Iraq.
"You didn't know what was going to happen next," said Spc. Bruza, of Nanticoke, who left King's College last spring about three semesters short of his degree in elementary education. "We got everybody home safe."
After about 11 months spent providing escorts for convoys and performing in other security roles, Bravo Battery left Camp Anaconda for Kuwait on Friday. A large U.S. base near the city of Balad, about 70 miles north of Baghdad, Anaconda has been nicknamed "Mortaritaville" due to frequent mortar attacks.
The severe winter weather that buffeted the northeast over the weekend delayed the unit's trip, forcing stops in Germany, Ireland and Bangor, Maine.
Now, all that stands between the soldiers and home is demobilization, a weeklong process of practical and psychological "decompression," officials said. The unit could be back in Northeastern Pennsylvania by next Tuesday.
The returning soldiers reflected on their time at war with a mixture of pride and relief.
"This is one of the best groups of people you could possibly work with," Sgt. 1st Class Jaime Sorber, of Hanover Township, said of Bravo Battery, which ultimately became a mixed bag of soldiers from different parts of the commonwealth and country. "These guys did an excellent job; they were very aggressive in combat.
"The reason they're all home and they're OK is because of the great job they did."
Many soldiers, when asked about their proudest achievements, simply said: A safe return home.
"Bringing home everybody we went with," said Sgt. Lukashewski, adding that the unit's days in the ravaged country "were all good and they were all bad."
About 90 minutes after their arrival, the unit gathered at a briefing center for an informal lunch and welcoming ceremony.
A wall of khaki-colored fatigues blanketed the hall.
Rifles and weathered, black bags lay neatly stacked along the aisles.
The USO of Pennsylvania and Southern New Jersey provided a snack spread from hot dogs to chips and the patriotic jelly beans.
"You realize it's finally over," said Spc. Mike Yetter, 21, of Carbondale, as platoon mates hovered around the USO chow line.
Spc. Yetter said a new link with his younger brother, Spc. Josh Yetter, 20, was a byproduct of their time spent amid improvised explosive devices and rumbling Humvees.
"Me and my brother got to bond," said Spc. Mike Yetter. "It made us a lot closer."
Over the next few days, the soldiers will basically go through the deployment process in reverse, said David Moore, of Fort Dix Public Affairs. Insurance forms and physicals must be updated. Counseling services will be provided - and encouraged.
"They've spent a year of their lives carrying a weapon," said Moore. "They'll wake up wondering, 'Where's my weapon?'"
Spc. Bruza acknowledged he will have adjustments to make, but he said he was eager to get back to what he left behind.
"I don't think I'll have much of a problem," he said, "but the little changes of everyday life, they're all going to be big changes to me."
Sgt. Lukashewski's mind also wandered to the little things.
"I'm used to being with 120 men; now we have to move in with our wives again," he said with a grin. "Little things like leaving the toilet seat up."
Spc. Mike Yetter, meanwhile, focused on the changes within.
"I feel like I've grown up a lot more - more mature," he said. "It was a very good learning experience."

109th 'went through some close calls'

By Robert Kalinowski , Citizens' Voice Staff Writer

FORT DIX, N.J. - Officially, he fought to liberate the people of Iraq, but for Capt. Bob Ohl the freedom of his grade-school daughters was also on the line.
Ohl, the commanding officer for Bravo Battery of the 109th Field Artillery, will soon be reunited with his little girls, Alycea, 8, and Marissa, 6.
For the past year, he and the rest of the 120-man Pennsylvania Army National Guard unit was part of the security forces trying to quell the Iraqi insurgency and prop up a democratic regime.
"We went through some close calls," Ohl said Tuesday upon his battery's arrival stateside at Fort Dix, N.J., "but the guys showed their toughness."
Ohl said he believes the on-going mission to democratize Iraq will eventually - if it already hasn't - help cease terrorism in the Middle East, thus making Americans, like his children, safer.
As they spend the next six days in demobilization from combat, Ohl and the rest of his comrades plan to relish in their biggest victory: a safe return by every soldier in the unit.
"It was lot of hard work, a lot of prayers and a lot of luck. It all worked out," said Ohl.
One of the biggest challenges of the field artillery unit upon entering Iraq was adapting to a different role as a security force, which included military police duty and providing convoy escorts in hot spots like Sadr City and Baghdad, some soldiers recalled.
Early in the deployment, their will was tested when they were pinned down amid heavy gunfire in Sadr City, the insurgent stronghold ruled by radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
"We fought together; we came out stronger," said Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Lukashewski, Wilkes-Barre, about the successful battle fought by the Nanticoke-based Guardsmen.
"We went over there not doing what we were initially trained to do and did just as well as the active duty guys," said Spc. Gene Everett, 24, of Nanticoke.
First Sgt. Francis Poperowitz, 53, of Shickshinny, said the unit made the adjustment flawlessly.
"They did everything the Army asked of them," Poperowitz said. "They were fantastic - you couldn't ask for a better group of soldiers to be with."
Poperowitz noted the Guardsmen had an emotional setback in April, when Sgt. Sherwood Baker, of the unit's sister outfit, Alpha Battery, was killed in Baghdad. Baker was serving with the 103rd Armor Regiment, out of Scranton.
"It hit close to home, but we had to continue to march on and do our job," he said.
Members of Bravo Battery are coming home with 17 Bronze Stars, 104 Army Commendation Medals and four Army Commendations Medals with Valor.
Nine soldiers also received Purple Hearts for injuries sustained in combat.
As they said goodbye to Iraq on Jan. 22, some places remained unstable, but in other places they could see their tireless work was beginning to pay off, several soldiers said.
"The Iraqis were taking ownership of their country," Ohl said. "They want and will have freedom. You could see it in their eyes."
Spc. Josh Yetter, of Carbondale, said it was a major turn-around in some areas from when Bravo Battery arrived to a "complete culture shock."
"Things are really calming down, coming under control," Yetter said.
"It's a slow process, but it's by far making progress, said Spc. Ron Bruza, of Nanticoke. "I think eventually over time it will stabilize itself."
Bravo Battery is expected to return to Northeastern Pennsylvania early next week.

Going-home smiles amid the waiting
Baggage search, passing time before briefings are no big deal to soldiers of the 109th, knowing they will soon return to the U.S.

By Jerry Lynott-jlynott@leader.net

CAMP DOHA, KUWAIT - The early-morning wake-up, the baggage search and the wait were worth it for Cpl. Anthony Skrypski and the rest of the soldiers of the 109th Field Artillery's Bravo Battery.
At 6:30 a.m. Monday the battery assembled in formation to begin the next step of their journey home.
They didn't even mind that after lugging their packed bags out of their temporary housing they had to unpack again and spread their clothes and gear out on the ground to ensure they weren't taking home any contraband.
"I've been waiting for a year for this day," said Skrypski, 32, of West Reading.
What he took out fit back into his duffel bag and then some, he said. "I have plenty of room."
Like the rest of the battery of 114 men, Skrypski prepared for a series of briefings later in the day and the eventual flight back to the United States. "All I do now is wait," he said.
The battery flew in from Iraq on Sunday after serving in camps as military police. The soldiers will return to Fort Dix, N.J., where they will undergo a few days of processing. From there they'll head back to the Wyoming Valley.
As dawn broke, Capt. Bob Ohl, commander of the battery, addressed his soldiers.
"I told myself this would be the last battery formation until we get to Nanticoke," said Ohl, 34, of Corning, N.Y.
"The year's gone by quick," at least for him, he said. "It's been a good year. You've done the right thing and made our job easy."
Ohl congratulated the men and made special note of six soldiers who re-enlisted for another six years. He swore in the re-enlistees, Cpl. Nick Dulina, 24, of McAdoo; Staff Sgt. William Dutzar, 27, of Nanticoke: Staff Sgt. Robert Franks, 23, of Mountain Top; Staff Sgt. Patrick Gallagher, 32, of Dallas; Staff Sgt. Brian Lukashewski, 30, of Mocanaqua; and his brother, Sgt. First Class Joseph Lukashewski, 31, of Wilkes-Barre.
"Thanks guys," Ohl said after he shook their hands. The others soldiers served up a round of applause.
The re-enlistees will receive a $15,000 sign-on bonus, but that wasn't the primary reason they reupped, some of the soldiers said.
"I like what I do. I like the guys I'm with," said Dutzar.
He and his wife, Amanda, talked over whether he should re-enlist, he said. "She said it was my decision."
Dutzar's service ended in September and he chose to stay rather than return home, he said. After completing the extension, he'll have 11 years in and will try to stay in for a total of 20 years, he said.
Franks also planned to reach the 20-year mark. With the six years he'll "already be over the 10-year hump," he said.
The money was definitely an incentive to stay in and so were his fellow soldiers, said Franks. "I like the guys and the camaraderie."

Parade planned for Sugar Notch soldiers
Two James Gallaghers to be feted upon returning from service in Iraq with the 109th's Bravo Battery.

By Lane Filler-lfiller@leader.net

SUGAR NOTCH - When James Gallagher returns home from Iraq next week, he'll be one of the 109th Field Artillery soldiers honored with a parade.
So will James Gallagher.
Both men hail from Sugar Notch, hold the rank of sergeant and share the same name. Both served with Bravo Battery in Baghdad and at Camp Ashraf.
But they're two very different people, with different middle initials.
Sgt. James M. Gallagher, 41, served in the Air Force before enlisting in the National Guard and was one of a contingent of older Bravo soldiers overseas, serving as a calming influence for the men under his command.
Sgt. James J. Gallagher, 23, earned the affectionate nickname "Psycho" from his battery-mates, preferred action to boredom and often displayed strange and unexpected bits of knowledge, particularly in the realm of American history.
Both are headed for home later this week and some in their community want to make sure they enjoy a warm welcome.
And they're asking their neighbors for help.
The parade route for families who want to meet the men includes a caravan on Interstate 81 and state Route 115. A ceremony and the main parade are scheduled to follow in Nanticoke.
In particular, James M. Gallagher will be picked up by his fellow Sugar Notch volunteer firemen and whisked home in the town's engine.
"We just want to make sure everybody has their flags and their ribbons out," James M. Gallagher's girlfriend, Lori Butler, said.
The parade will be organized by the Busy B's, the support group of Bravo Battery, and is expected to take place early next week. The exact day is not known due to uncertainty about when the men will arrive home.
Several fire companies and schools are set to be involved in the parade and a ceremony at the Greater Nanticoke Area High School gymnasium, as are officials from many surrounding towns.
In addition to Sugar Notch, several smaller towns are organizing offshoot parades for their soldiers.
Filler met both Gallaghers while reporting from Iraq.

Reality sinks in for troops of Bravo
Local soldiers expected at Fort Dix today.
109th Alpha Battery due back in February.

By Jerry Lynott-jlynott@leader.net

CAMP DOHA, KUWAIT - One thing confirmed the end of a year-long mission in Iraq for Sgt. David Kinney and the other soldiers of the 109th Field Artillery's Bravo Battery.
"When they took our bullets away from us, it did," said Kinney, 45, of Plains Township. "We're really leaving now."
The battery flew from Camp Anaconda south of Kirkut, Iraq, in two flights early Sunday morning. Driving rains delayed the planes several hours.
The soldiers landed at an airfield about an hour and half from Doha and were bused to the camp where the 109th's Alpha Battery is stationed. Bravo is getting the jump home on its sister battery, with Alpha planning to leave sometime early next month.
"It's not reality yet," said Sgt. Richard Adams, 33, of Larksville, as he and several others milled about in the bright afternoon sun outside the converted warehouse that served as their temporary housing.
"We're halfway home. Anaconda was a quarter. Fort Dix, done," said Kinney.
Bravo's soldiers will fly to Fort Dix, N.J., today and spend nearly a week there processing out before heading to the battery's home in Nanticoke.
Kinney and others said they heard rumors of a big welcome home. But more than anything, the soldiers wanted a quick formation and dismissal so they could reunite with family and friends.
"We just want to get there, get relieved and go home," said Kinney, indicating any celebration can wait until Alpha and the soldiers of the battalion's other batteries return.
Bravo spent most of its deployment on a military police assignment at Camp Ashraf, approximately 60 miles north of Baghdad and the site of a detention center for Iranians who fought for Saddam Hussein and against the coalition forces. Prior to that it was stationed at Camp Cuervo in Baghdad where it assisted the police and patrolled Sadr City.
The soldiers performed well and earned the praise of Capt. Francis Petroski, 34, of Jackson Township.
"The enlisted guys were great all year," said Petroski. "They were just as good if not better than the active-duty guys."
Tired and sick, Petroski expressed relief at saying goodbye to the desert and dangers and anticipated saying hello to his 9-year-old son, Brandon. "My son took it really hard," he said of his absence.
The battery is bringing home 114 men, but there are five more who will meet them at Fort Dix, said Bravo's commander, Capt. Bob Ohl of Corning, N.Y.
Two of the five, Spc. Eric Zagata and David Miscavage were wounded in Iraq and recovering back home. "Those two guys I'm looking forward to see again," said Ohl.
"I'll consider us complete then."
Ohl, a 1994 graduate of West Point, showed pride in his soldiers for the work in and out of uniform. Several of them sported specially made T-shirts identifying them as members of the "300-lb." club that spent their off time lifting weights in the camp's gym.
"We just went to the gym every day," said a muscled Spc. Robert John Miller, 21, of Blakeslee. "Our guys took up most of the equipment."
Miller and Spc. Nick Walters, 23, of Weatherly, bench-pressed 350 pounds and called it a truce at that weight, ending their friendly pumping iron competition, they said.
Ohl and some of the soldiers changed into shorts and T-shirts for an afternoon run. Others slept or lounged on the cots and bunk and single beds.
Kinney showed off photos he downloaded to his laptop computer of the battery's surroundings and assignments at Camp Ashraf. The snapshots showed Iraqis herding sheep and riding donkeys, piles of mortar shells and other munitions left behind from the early days of the war in 2003, and thermometers reading in the triple digits.
The red arrow of a thermometer in one photo pushed close to 150 degrees. It was "just sitting right inside the Hummer," said Kinney of the type of armored truck the soldiers drove on patrol through the desert.
Heat wouldn't be a problem back home though. The soldiers, especially the skiers in the battery, talked about the snowstorm that hit the East Coast.
Still others slumbered off the effects of a rough flight in. The C-130 cargo plane that they boarded banked hard after take off and climbed quickly, causing some of the soldiers to get sick, several soldiers said.
Not to worry on the flight home, promised Ohl. "This one will be nice and smooth."

Nanticoke couple awaits son's return
By Denise Allabaugh , Citizens' Voice Staff Writer

For the last year, Ladye Gerle Sicurella missed hearing the music from her son Christopher's guitar. She missed cooking him stuffed shells, manicotti and lasagna.
She and her husband, Vince, are thrilled their 20-year-old son is finally coming home from Iraq.
They do not know the exact date he will come home, since it's "classified," they said. But, they expect it to be before the end of the month.
The Sicurellas have ribbons, a Healing Field flag and a big sign in front of their Nanticoke home eagerly anticipating their son's arrival. Their sign reads, "Welcome Home from Iraq, Chris."
"It has been a long year," Mr. Sicurella said. "We live each day in terror. We worry and we keep tuned to the news. We want to know everything going on."
Christopher is a soldier with the Nanticoke-based Bravo Battery of the 109th Field Artillery, Pennsylvania Army National Guard.
He joined the Army National Guard while he was a junior at Nanticoke High School. He also studied computers at Wilkes-Barre Area Vocational-Technical School. He is the youngest of Vince and Ladye's six children.
He attended Luzerne County Community College for one semester when he was called for duty.
He departed for Fort Dix, N.J. in December 2003 and for Iraq in February 2004. Since then, Mr. and Mrs. Sicurella have worried about their son every day.
"I miss listening to him practicing and playing his guitar in his bedroom. I miss having him home and making him breakfast," Mrs. Sicurella said. "I'm sure he will enjoy being able to relax, without having to worry about himself and other soldiers."
More than 600 Northeastern Pennsylvania soldiers are soon expected to return from Iraq, Kuwait and Quatar. About 125 soldiers with Bravo Battery B are scheduled to be the first to arrive in Fort Dix, N.J. next week before coming home.
Since Christopher left for Iraq, Mr. and Mrs. Sicurella have been happy their son has able to call often.
"Back in the years of World War II, contact like that wasn't a possibility," Mr. Sicurella said.
Mr. and Mrs. Sicurella displayed pictures of their son serving as a gunner on a Humvee and visiting an orphanage in Iraq.
Christopher told his parents in the summer, it was as hot as 140 degrees in Iraq.
This time of year, however, temperatures drop below freezing while he is serving night-duty.
Mr. Sicurella, an Army veteran, encouraged his son to join the military.
"I'm a proud American and I think more youth today should go into the military and serve our country," he said. "I'm proud of our country that we are supporting our troops."
The Sicurellas, who are members of the Busy B's support group, raised more than $2,000 selling "Support our Troops" magnets. Recently, they braved well-below freezing temperatures to hang ribbons to welcome home their son and other soldiers.
The Busy B's are planning a welcome parade from Route 115 to Interstate 81 to state Route 29 toward Nanticoke. A date for the parade has not been set, but a planning meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 26.

Fire company plans big welcome for returning serviceman
By Tom Venesky , Citizens' Voice Staff Writer

Dedication is a two-way street for Army Spc. William Marusak. The resident of Honey Pot will do anything for his community, as evidenced by his 10 years of service with the Honey Pot Volunteer Active Fire Co. in Nanticoke.
Marusak will also do anything for his country and he is currently wrapping up a year of service in Iraq. A member of the 1st Battalion, 109th Field Artillery, Bravo Battery in Nanticoke, Marusak and his fellow soldiers are expected back home sometime next week.
When Marusak returns, he will be greeted by an enormous show of support and appreciation from his small hometown.
William Graboske, a member of the Honey Pot Fire Company, said when Marusak arrives in Nanticoke from Fort Dix, N.J., the entire department will be ready in full uniform to drive him back to Honey Pot in the fire truck.
"The truck will be decorated and we're going to make a grand entrance," Graboske said. "We're asking residents to decorate the entire community with flags, yellow ribbons and "welcome home" signs.
"I've known Bill and long time and I think he's going to be overwhelmed by it. He's always been true to Honey Pot and he has a lot of pride in his community."
Marusak's wife, Lisa, said aside from his family, which includes their one-and-a-half year old daughter Abigail, the fire department means everything to her husband. While he was on a two-week leave last summer, she said, her husband temporarily left their daughter's first birthday party to help fight a major structure fire.
"He likes volunteering his time to help others," Lisa Marusak said. "That's his attitude about the fire department and also going over to Iraq."
William Marusak left for Iraq last February and his wife said it's been a rough time while he's been gone. She said it was even harder when he came back last summer because after a short two weeks her husband was gone again.
Lisa Marusak said she communicates every day with her husband via the telephone or email. She relies on the family support group and daily phone conversations with her sister and mother to get through the trying time.
"I don't watch the news at all. As long as I keep hearing from him, that's all that matters," Lisa Marusak said.
Chester Kopco, president of the Honey Pot Firemen's Active Association, said when William Marusak arrives home, he will be welcoming two sons back. Kopco's son, Spc. Nicholas Kopco, Shickshinny, is currently serving in Iraq alongside Marusak and is expected back at the same time.
"They grew up together, served as junior fire fighters, went to Iraq together and now they'll be coming home together," Chester Kopco said. "Billy was my eyes for me over there. He watched over my son and it was a great comfort to know he was there."
He said when Marusak left his daughter's birthday party to help the firefighters last summer, it made an impression on everybody in
Honey Pot.
"It was beyond the call of duty and the homecoming parade is the least we can do," Chester Kopco said. "With Billy and Nicholas over in Iraq together, it feels like having two sons over there.
"With both of them coming home, it feels like you're getting a second chance on life. We're going to pick Billy up in the fire truck and take him back home to Honey Pot."
Graboske said any residents who would like to decorate for the homecoming can contact any member of the fire department. Although the soldiers are tentatively expected to return toward the end of next week, Graboske recommend residents decorate their homes as soon as possible to be ready.

Soldiers' families prepare for 109th's return
By Denise Allabaugh Citizens' Voice Staff Writer

A year ago, Mountain Top resident Judy Buff was in tears when her son, Kyle, departed for Iraq.
In about one week, her tears of fear will be replaced by ones of joy when her 22-yearold son comes home.
Buff endured well-below freezing temperatures Monday to hang welcome home ribbons in several locations to show her happiness.
"I just want him to come home safe, along with the other guys. We're looking forward to it. Now is a jubilant time. We're all anticipating them coming home," Buff said. "This is a more exciting time ago than a year ago, when we had tears."
Buff and other members of the Busy B's Support Group
hung ribbons on state Route 115 between the turnpike and Interstate 81; state Route 29, Interstate 81 between Bear
Creek and Nanticoke, and on Main Street, Nanticoke.
The preparations were made to welcome home soldiers from the Nanticoke-based Bravo Battery of the 109th Field Artillery, Pennsylvania Army Na
tional Guard.
An exact date for the arrival has not been set. But Jen Sorber, president of the support group and wife of Sgt. 1st
Class Jaime Sorber, expects it to be some time next week.
"They deserve a hero's welcome and that's what we want to give them," Sorber said.
Wilkes-Barre resident Michelle Lukashewski hung ribbons on East Main Street in Nanticoke to welcome home her husband, Joseph, and other soldiers.
"I was always worried and wanted to make sure he's OK, and I would always feel relief when I would hear from him," Lukashewski said. "I think at this point, they'll be OK."
The Busy B's are planning a welcome home parade from Route 115 to Interstate 81 to state Route 29 toward Nanticoke. A date for the parade has not been set.

Ribbons galore to greet 109th
Support groups for the three returning batteries plan a warm welcome

By MARK GUYDISH-mguydish@leader.net

Support groups for the returning 109th Field Artillery plan to tie one on, as it were, then tie on another, and another and another, until the area blazes with traditional "welcome home" yellow bows.
"We're tying them straight down Route 115, all over Nanticoke, on Market Street" in Wilkes-Barre and Kingston, said Tracy Clocker, president of the Alpha Battery support group. "We're tying them to whatever we can get them on."
These are no simple, two-loop, shoelace-style bows. These are so fancy that the support groups are having trouble finding enough people capable of tying - or learning to tie - them.
"Tell anyone that can get bows or who knows how to make them to call me," Clocker said.
OK, consider it done. Bow-tying artists of the area, if you have time on your hands and troop appreciation in your heart, give Clocker a call. The number is in an accompanying box.
But be warned, the bows are just the beginning. Clocker said the support groups - there are separate ones for Alpha, Bravo and Service batteries - are making other plans as well.
Although exact return dates aren't known, Clocker said Bravo Battery is expected to arrive at the month's end and Alpha is to return sometime in February. On Thursday, the Times Leader's original embedded duo, reporter Jerry Lynott and photographer S. John Wilkin, started a long trip to Kuwait to join the troops and report back to readers as the soldiers prepare to depart.
The departures from the Persian Gulf are good news, but the support groups, of course, are readying for the more important arrivals here in the states.
"I know Service Battery is having a clambake," Clocker said. "Bravo, I believe, is having a formal at Genetti's. And we're having a down-to-earth, casual party. We're working the details out this Sunday."
The support groups are lining up police and fire departments to escort the troops once they reach the area from Fort Dix, their initial stop after returning from Iraq. High school bands are also being tabbed for the homecoming.
Alpha Battery is preparing gift bags for each soldier that include photo slides and commemorative candles marked "109th," Clocker said. And the group has been asking restaurants to donate gift certificates for free dinners for the soldiers.
"They've been very receptive," she said of area business. Then she spread her gratitude around, praising Wilkes-Barre city administrators and the community before blurting out the real song of praise, raising her voice in elation.
"It's over! It's all over!"

How to help:
Anyone who can provide elaborate yellow ribbon or bows, or who knows how to tie them, and wants to help the 109th Field Artillery support groups can call Tracy Clocker at 288-6264.
Nanticoke City Webdesign note: If anyone has Tracy's email, please let us know by emailing us at nanticokewebdesign@yahoo.com and we will put it on here. Thank you.

National Guard unit to get big welcome home
By Robert Kalinowski , Citizens' Voice Staff Writer

When soldiers from Nanticoke-based Bravo Battery of the 109th Field Artillery return from active duty, they can expect a patriotic road to home.
On Monday, the unit's family support group - known as the Busy B's - plans to start hanging hundreds of ribbons along the homebound highways the soldiers will travel.
The unit could be back in the United States late this month or early February, after a yearlong tour of duty in Iraq, the group has been told. Following several days at an Army base in Fort Dix, N.J., the soldiers will be bused back to Northeastern Pennsylvania.
They'll enter their home state when the New Jersey Turnpike becomes the Pennsylvania Turnpike, said Jen Sorber, president of the support group and wife of Sgt. 1st Class Jaime Sorber of Hanover Township.
At the state border is where Sorber and the group hope the first ribbons will be placed.
"Once they reach Pennsylvania, it will be a great sigh of relief for them knowing they are in the state they came from," Sorber said Monday at a Bravo Battery homecoming meeting at the Nanticoke Armory.
The group is currently awaiting a final OK from the turnpike commission if its crews would be able to help adorn the roadway with the yellow and red, white and blue ribbons. If not, the group will only decorate local roadways, Sorber said.
After an 86-mile trip on the turnpike, the soldiers will be met with a state police escort at state Route 115 Bear Creek, she said.
This is where Sorber hopes the soldiers will first be met with the "perfect" homecoming they deserve - the one the group has been planning since December.
"I'd like the soldiers to see all the yellow ribbons, kids on the streets holding flags and residents holding 'Welcome Home' signs," she said.
The parade, which will include local fire and police units and hopefully residents, will follow Route 115 to Interstate 81 to state Route 29 toward Nanticoke. All along the way will be the hundreds ribbons, she said.
When the parade reaches Nanticoke, it will run along East Main Street, where a big banner reading "Welcome Home 109th. We're proud of you" will hang, to Kosciuszko Street. It will end at the Greater Nanticoke Area High School, where a ceremony will be held in the gymnasium.
Sorber said about 2,500 mini flags and hundreds of red, white and blue balloons have been ordered for the event, which she hopes gets a large turnout.
"We need to definitely let them know their heroes," said Michelle Lukashewski, wife of Sgt. 1st Class Joe Lukashewski of Wilkes-Barre.
"I just want them to feel the outpouring of support we've had since the day they left," said Amanda Dutzar, wife of Staff Sgt. William Dutzar of Nanticoke.
Alpha Battery of the 109th, which has served in Kuwait and Qatar, will be returning to Fort Dix at the same time as Bravo Battery. The 289 soldiers from the units have primarily served in security roles, escorting convoys and arresting and detaining insurgents.
An exact date of their return is not yet known.
The Guard has asked families not travel to the military base.
Members of the Bravo Battery support group said they'll first get to see their hero loved ones when they get off the bus outside at the Nanticoke gym.
Nanticoke City