Returning soldiers say that they missed family, friends

Toby Uecker

Toby Uecker

Rodney Palo isn’t used to being a husband yet.

The Hayti native was engaged for only two days before his National Guard outfit, the 727th Transportation Company, was activated. Hastily married before the private first class shipped out in January 2003, Palo and his wife, Sophia, have spent the past few days getting reacquainted.

“We’re actually just getting to start the role of being married,” he said. “I’m definitely enjoying it now.”

The interaction with his wife and other family is something the SDSU electrical engineering major had a hard time doing without, especially early on.

“It was really upsetting when I left and took a lot of thinking even when I was over there,” Palo said of the war itself. “I’m alright with it now.”

For Ryan Dailey, it was the huge greeting in Brookings Friday and a good home-cooked meal that made him feel alright about being back.

“I was actually kind of in awe that so many people supported us back home,” said the Watertown native planning to transfer to SDSU in the fall.

Dailey said mail from people across the state helped keep morale up among the soldiers.

In the physical absence of family members, Elizabeth Lovett of Luverne, Minn., said her fellow Guard members became the support she needed.

“You definitely form a family bond with the people you serve with,” she said, noting sadness at leaving the Brookings unit to transfer to school and service in her home state.

Lovett said mission transporting supplies and humanitarian aid throughout the war zone, helped her learn humility and be thankful for the everyday amenities she has that many Iraqis she met lacked.

Each soldier said they brought back a sense of pride bolstered by the hero’s welcome the unit received Friday.

“It is quite a commitment to be gone for a year,” Lovett said, “but there’s the pride in having served.”