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National Guard#039;s return becomes time of reflection

Joy filled the Portsmouth air Friday, nearly becoming a tangible object.

With the return of the Ohio National Guard's 216th Engineer Battalion Co. B, the glee of being reunited with families was the prevailing emotion of the day.

But there was an undercurrent throughout the Vern Riffe Center of an overwhelming display of patriotism.

Sgt. Larry Noel's brother Gary was thrilled to see the soldiers home. Under the shadow of a massive American flag

erected by fire truck, he was eager to talk about his love for the soldiers.

"I'm really glad they're here, I'm glad God took care of them, and God brought them back," Noel said.

"All the boys are looking good and healthy, and we're glad to have them back in the states.

Believe me, we're all glad to get them back."

Eric Hardin stood in the lobby of the Vern Riffe Center, intently watching the welcome home ceremonies for the 216th.

He seemed almost overwhelmed by how much the soldiers, and by association their families, have to be proud of.

"These guys have been serving their country, they've been a part of something big," Hardin said.

"To be a patriot is to serve your country.

When the Commander-in-Chief says go, you go."

Zach Fields of Wheelersburg was rushing with his uncle to take in a family meal, though he was excited to have him home, it was clear that Zach's uncle is an inspiration to him.

"They have a lot to be proud of. Š Everything they do," Fields said.

"My uncle just came back, he served for his country. I'm really proud of him."

Red, white and blue spirit abounded, and there was hardly a direction you could look without seeing a flag.

But when Jenny Duty was asked what her returning cousins, identical twins Matt and Mike, had to be proud of, surprisingly, it wasn't a battle they had fought or a mission they had won.

"Mikey has a 10-month old baby and a wife to come home to, and Matt has a beautiful wife and two kids to come home to," Duty said.

"That's what I'd bet they're most proud of."

All the families showed just how proud they are, too.