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Cultivating Afghanistan: The Homecoming

The Indiana National Guard's 119th Agribusiness Development Team, or ADT, has finished its mission to Afghanistan.

It’s early morning at a National Guard hanger at Stout Field in Indianapolis. A crowd of family and friends is waiting for loved ones to return from Afghanistan. There’s kids in pajamas; wives in high heels; parents with proud smiles.

  • Flag Prep

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    Photo: Douglas Wissing

    As the crowd waits for the arrival of the returning Agribusiness Development Team, they begin to unfurl the flags.

  • Homecoming Crowd

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    Photo: Douglas Wissing

    The friends and families of the Indiana National Guard Agribusiness Development Team wait for the arrival of their returning soldiers at a hanger at Stout Field in Indianapolis.

  • ADT Kids

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    Photo: Douglas Wissing

    ADT kids with a USO banner.

  • Homecoming Posters

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    Photo: Douglas Wissing

    The ADT kids prepared posters for their parents' homecoming from Afghanistan.

  • Early Morning PJs

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    Photo: Douglas Wissing

    With the ADT's homecoming from Afghanistan in the wee hours of the morning, some of the kids wore their pajamas.

  • Copes Parents

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    Photo: Douglas Wissing

    Eugene and Norvella Copes are the parents of ADT commander Col. Brian Copes.

  • Gardner Family

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    Photo: Douglas Wissing

    Maj. Shawn Gardner's family waits for him, including his wife, Maxie, parents Martha and Dan Gardner, and the Gardners' two children.

  • Kimberly Goodin

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    Photo: Douglas Wissing

    Kimberly Goodin is a Family Readiness Assistant who helps National Guard families with the issues of deployment and re-entry. She is also married to the ADT's Sgt. Maj. Robert Goodin.

  • Families with Flags

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    Photo: Douglas Wissing

    As the time until the ADT arrived grew short, an honor guard of family members assembled.

Martha Gardner said she’s “Thankful that God’s bringing them—all, the whole troop—home safely.”

Donna Copes, who’s husband Brian is on the transport said there’s one prevailing feeling.  “Oh, relief,” she said.  “It’s been a long year, but it has not been as long as I thought it was going to be. I think the last two weeks have been the longest of the whole time.”

“Very proud, is how Maxie Gardner pronounced herself.  “Excited. Happy. So happy I could cry if that makes sense.”

National Guard Family Readiness Assistant Kimberley Goodin helps returning vets and their families reintegrate to the United States. She’s also waiting for a soldier: Sgt. Mjr. Robert Goodin.

“Very excited. But I work all the homecomings,” Gooding said.  “So it’s always exciting when we can connect families and the service members back together. But it’s even more that finally my husband’s going to be part of it.”

When vets return home – or de-mobilize, in military slang – a series of Yellow Ribbon events helps connect them and their families with financial, medical and marital assistance.

“What they’re going to do as soon as they get here, they’re going to head down to do their demob at Camp Atterbury,” said Kimberly Goodin.  “Then after that they will return home. Then we’re going to start our 30-, 60- and 90-day Yellow Ribbon events.”

Maxie Gardner said it takes some time to reintegrate.

“There’s always a month or two of adjustment. Of letting go some of my reins and handing them over. But it’s kind of a relief, too.”

  • ADT Waits to Fall Out

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    Photo: Douglas Wissing

    With a wail of sirens, the hanger doors trundled up and ADT marched in.

  • ADT Dismissed

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    Photo: Douglas Wissing

    Following dismissal, the team at last got to reach out to their loved ones.

  • Hugs All Around

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    Photo: Douglas Wissing

    The auditorium was filled with celebrating families.

  • Sgt Felts and Wife

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    Photo: Douglas Wissing

    Sgt. Felts, a member of the ADT Force Protection Platoon and former Marine, gets a homecoming kiss.

  • Spc Nathan Jones

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    Photo: Douglas Wissing

    Spc. Nathan Jones is a member of the ADT security team is happy to see his loved ones.

  • Goodin Family Reunion

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    Photo: Douglas Wissing

    Sgt. Maj. Goodin reconnects with his family.

  • Maj. Shawn Gardner and Family

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    Photo: Douglas Wissing

    Maj. Shawn Gardner holds his son Charlie as wife Maxie watches.

  • Brian and Donna Copes

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    Photo: Douglas Wissing

    ADT commander Col. Brian Copes with his wife, Donna.

  • Brian Copes and Grandkids

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    Photo: Douglas Wissing

    Col. Brian Copes visits with his grandchildren as his wife Donna looks on.

A siren begins to wail, signaling the farmer-soldiers are near.  A cheer breaks out in the crowd when the troops appear.  The formation breaks into clots of happy families Hugging and kissing and crying tears of relief. Agribusiness Development Team commander Col. Brian Copes holds his granddaughter, Emma, who says they’re going on a long-planned holiday to Disney World.

Back on home soil, Col. Copes said the mission overseas was worthwhile.

“Certainly we felt good about what were able to accomplish: the knowledge base, and certainly the array of relationships we were able to bequeath to the second team when they came in. Yeah, it was worth it. I feel very good about the mission.”

So the Agribusiness Development Team, its roots deep in Indiana soil, has completed its mission and now watches its replacement, the 219th ADT, continue the work of the last year. And these farmer-soldiers, back home again in Indiana, now return to the lives they left — in the arms of their loved ones.

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