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Cultivating Afghanistan: The Homecoming

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.

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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.”

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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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