Whitehall-based Reservists return safely from Iraq

Messenger photos by Dianne Garrett
Six-year-old Tim Best is thrilled with the flag he receives from Whitehall Mayor Lynn Ochsendorf the day both his parents, Spec. E-4 Randy Best and Sgt. Suzy Best, returned from Iraq on Aug.  29.  Both parents have been away from their son for 14 months with the 758th Maintenance Company (Army Reserve).  Tim said that he missed everything about having his parents at home, and gave the occasion "13,000 thumbs up."
Sgt. Jonathan Green sess his four-month -old baby, Brynn, for only the second time since the child’s birth upon his return from Iraq Aug. 29.  Green, a member of the 758th Maintenance Company and a Reynoldsburg resident, is pictured with wife, Heather.  Green’s twin brother, Jason, was also among the Army Reservists returning.

The words of "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" were probably playing through the minds of loved ones as they awaited the arrival of the 758th Maintenance Company on Aug. 29 at the Whitehall Army Reserve, 165 N. Yearling Road.

About 110 Army Reservists returned after a 14-month deployment to Iraq.  Mission duties included small arms repair, vehicle recovery and repair, generator, air conditioning and light-set maintenance and repair at nine Iraqi camps and locations.  

According to Captain Taylor Jones III, they also taught members of the Iraqi army how to perform the maintenance tasks.  

The soldiers are mostly from the Midwest, including Ohio and 35 from Canton, Illinois.  Another 215 returned Aug. 24.

Two busloads of soldiers were greeted by hundreds of friends and family members, and entered under a flag suspended from two DSCC Fire Department ladder trucks.  The 338th Army Reserve Band played patriotic melodies for attendees as they waited in the hot temperatures.  

Patty Kerns held three bouquets of yellow roses for Sgt. Dannielle Bures and her two roommates.  Bures used to date her son, Sgt. Keith Kerns, who returned in November.  Bures also resided for awhile with the Kerns family.  

Kerns gave a hardy laugh, joking, "I wanted to give them all yellow roses, but especially her roommates, who I know had to put up with a lot from her."

World War II veteran Paul Hanna, 91, who fought in the Battle of the Bulge, was waiting for his nephews, Jeremy Hanna and Jason Hanna, Jeremy’s son.  

It was going to be a big weekend celebration for the family.  Jeremy and his wife, Annette, were celebrating their 21st wedding anniversary, as well as the seventh birthday of Jason’s son, Josh.  

Josh said that during their separation, he missed sitting on his dad’s lap the most.  Older brother Tyler, 9, said he missed hunting and riding four-runners with his dad.

In many cases it was the return of multiple family members.  Sgt. Jonathan Green and his twin brother, Sgt. Jason Green, are from Reynoldsburg.  Jonathan got to see his four-month-old baby for the only second time.  He held tight to the child and his sobbing wife, Heather.  

Jason’s fiancee was also close by, as were several other members of the extended family.

Six-year-old Tim Best said that having both of his parents home was a big "13,000 thumbs up."  He said he missed doing everything with his dad and mom, Spec. E-4 Randy Best and Sgt. Suzy Best.  

The couple greeted the boy with candy, trinkets and lots of joyful tears.   Fourteen months away from parents is a long time in a child’s life.  Mayor Lynn Ochsendorf helped Tim welcome his parents home by presenting him with a flag.  

"That was awesome!" he shared.

Ohio State Highway Patrol Sgt. Rudy Zupanc showed up in his uniform to greet his co-worker, MSgt. Darren Huggins, who is an investigator with the Highway Patrol.  He also was there to see close high school friend, SSgt. John Klouda.

Ochsendorf told the soldiers, "I was here when you left over a year ago.  I told you then that I’d be here when you returned.  We prayed for your safe return, and today here you are, every one of you safe.  You can’t beat that!  Thank you for your dedicated service to this country and to your communities."

Rick Isbell, the veterans’ affairs coordinator from Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman’s office, expressed the mayor’s regrets that he could not attend.   He assured the reservists that he and his office will always be there to help them get to the right places to find benefits and any help they may need. He can be contacted at 645-6504.

"God bless you, and welcome home.  Go have fun with your families," directed Isbell.   

Captain Taylor Jones III, of Dayton, spoke to his soldiers and attendees before dismissal.  

To the families he said, "We were at nine different locations, and part of what we did there couldn’t have been done without you at home."  

He reminded the soldiers, "Our mission is not complete until we are all back," referring to all military personnel still on deployments.  "I will serve with you anytime and anyplace."  

Jones said that he tries to instill that leaders don’t make an organization, people make the organization.  

"Every accolade I have is due to these soldiers," offered Jones.

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