They’re headed home.

Some of the 500 members of the Maine National Guard’s 133rd Engineer Combat Battalion should be back in the U.S.A. today, the rest by Thursday.

It can’t be soon enough for Darlene St. Pierre of Hebron.

“We just can’t wait,” she said Tuesday afternoon.

Her husband, Sgt. Scott St. Pierre, will be among the citizen-soldiers returning from a yearlong deployment to Iraq.

“It’s been a long wait,” his wife said. “We’re ready for them.”

Word that the battalion was homeward bound had come Monday from U.S. Sen. Susan Collins. The Maine Republican was in Kuwait with other members of a Senate delegation that is visiting war-zone troops in Afghanistan as well as the Middle East.

Collins said, “It was so special to be able to personally deliver this good news to our service members who have been serving in Iraq.”

Once she passed the word to the troops, she let people on the home front know the news.

“I am very honored to have had the opportunity to thank them in person for their service and wish them well as they start their journey home,” she said.

The Guard’s public affairs officer, Maj. Peter Rogers, confirmed that the vanguard is expected to fly into the Syracuse, N.Y., area sometime Wednesday, with the rest following by Thursday.

The troops will be bused to Fort Drum in upstate New York, where they’ll reorient themselves and decompress. By the middle or end of next week, they’ll be arriving at their armories in Maine, Rogers said.

“We expect there will be some celebrating then,” he said.

Last week, when a Waterville-based artillery unit returned to Maine, more than 1,000 people turned out in Bangor to greet the troops.

Rogers said it’s likely that that celebration will be mirrored time and again as the 133rd troops come home.

He’s been told, he said, that they’ll arrive here from Fort Drum by bus, heading toward unit armories in Lewiston as well as Augusta, Gardiner, Westbrook and Portland.

Sometime soon the battalion members will gather for some formal recognition as well. They’ve been recommended for the Meritorious Unit Commendation ribbon by the commanding general at Camp Marez.

Members of the 133rd earned the award for their actions in implementing a mass casualty response plan for the camp in Mosul. They’ve been credited with saving at least six lives during three mortar attacks on the camp, according to Collins.

While in Iraq, the 133rd was responsible for tracking all areas of military and civilian operations regarding engineer missions. They’ve monitored minefields, contracted for infrastructure improvements, including rebuilding schools, and provided humanitarian relief.

They were also targeted by Iraqi insurgents.

Three members of the 133rd were killed while deployed to Iraq and another 35 were wounded.

“We honor their service,” said Collins. “We will never forget them, and we continue to pray to give their families strength and to help them endure their loss.”

Part of the battalion’s welcome home will include some banners being made available by Tammy Leblanc, the wife of Sgt. Andre Leblanc. One of the banners is already at the Androscoggin County Chamber of Commerce.

Another is destined for Darlene St. Pierre.

“I should have mine by tomorrow,” she said Tuesday.

Funds from sales of the $29 2-by-4-foot standards will help pay for a welcome-home party, St. Pierre said.

But, she added, she intends to heed the advice of a Guard chaplain who met with service members’ families a couple of weeks ago.

“We’ll keep it low-key,” she said, “to give them time to unwind and get settled back in.”

But in the case of Sgt. Scott St. Pierre, there’ll be some comfort food as well.

His wife already has plans to make his two favorite meals: meatloaf, and salmon pie.



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