Southeast soldiers come home

35 National Guard troops return from mission in Kuwait

Posted: Sunday, October 21, 2007

A tired Pfc. Aaron McCluskey of Angoon walked off flight 79 Thursday night at Juneau International Airport and into his mother Doreen's arms.

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Moments later, Spc. Brent Clancy's wife and daughter nearly knocked him off his feet while attacking him with hugs and kisses before taking him home for good.

Both men had returned safely home from the largest deployment of Alaskan soldiers since World War II.

In all, about 35 Southeast Alaska soldiers from the 3rd Battalion 297th Infantry came in on Flight 79, returning from a long mission to provide security to American forces and supply convoys in Kuwait.

The mission sometimes took the infantrymen to the Iraqi border.

McCluskey's father, Peter, said he was taking his son to his home on Admiralty Island to relax and feed him fish and deer meat.

"Things he's not had for the last year," he said.

After his welcome home, Specialist Johnathen Harrup of Haines went straight to a rental car counter before rejoining his family at a hotel for the night.

Harrup had a developed order of things to do; he would get some sleep, go shopping and then head for Haines.

A Tlingit and Haida luncheon was held Friday to honor the soldiers' return. McCluskey, an Alaska Native, said he did not have words to explain the differences between the Persian Gulf Kingdom of Kuwait and the rain forests of Southeast Alaska.

"I look forward to not breathing sand," he said.

After so being away for so long, McCluskey wanted to thank everyone who supports soldiers serving in the Middle East. Mail call had letters, snacks and phone cards. Last December he said a Christmas tree arrived in the mail with all the cards.

"It keeps us going over there," he said.

At home Saturday, Clancy, a fireman-paramedic in normal life, said he was looking forward to leaving the National Guard as soon as possible. His discharged was postponed by the Stop Loss program 21 months ago so that he could join his unit in the desert.

"It's huge for me to not to have to worry about being called away from home again," he said.

Clancy's priority, now that he is home, is his wife and daughter. Since the deployment in the summer of 2006, Tammy Clancy has done the work of two parents alone and the soon-to-be former soldier said he wanted nothing more than to spend time at home.

"The wives have it the roughest," he said.

While his wife worried about his safety and whereabouts, Clancy said he knew friends and family were looking after things back home.

"It put my mind at ease," he said.

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