NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. – There were joyful family reunions for the 120 National Guard (search) troops who returned home Saturday after a year in Iraq, and a poignant reminder of two soldiers missing from the homecoming.
Kelly McMillin, widow of Sgt. Heath McMillin, was among the first to greet the soldiers of the 105th Military Police Co. who touched down at the Niagara Falls Air Base (search). Out on the tarmac, apart from the throngs who would see their loved ones again, she accepted carnations and hugs from her husband's comrades.
Heath McMillin, 29, was killed July 27 when his vehicle was hit by explosives while on patrol south of Baghdad. Spc. Michael Williams, 46, was killed in a similar explosion in October.
The unit suffered several other casualties as it escorted supply convoys through the war zone. Members earned a battery of medals for bravery.
The unit was activated Feb. 14, 2003, about a year and a half after serving two weeks at ground zero in lower Manhattan.
"These men and women have seen both sides of this war," said Lt. Col. Paul Fanning (search), a National Guard spokesman. "I don't know anyone else who can say that."
Also Saturday, about 20 eastern New York MPs were flown to the Stratton Air National Guard Base in Scotia, 15 miles northwest of Albany.
First Lt. James Noreault and his 6-month-old son, Caleb, studied each others' faces after meeting for the first time. "It's overwhelming," said Jennifer Noreault as she watched her husband hold their baby.
James Noreault had read storybooks into a tape recorder for Caleb to listen to at bedtime and was clearly happy at the chance to deliver the stories in person. "It's great," he said, smiling.