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48th Brigade Troops Pouring in From Iraq

April 20, 2006

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) _ The first of thousands of citizen-soldiers of the 48th Infantry Brigade returning after a yearlong tour of duty in Iraq were back in Georgia Wednesday night.

A flight carrying 291 Georgia National Guardsmen landed at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah. Gov. Sonny Perdue was at the bottom of the ramp to greet the troops as they got off the plane.

The returning troops belong to A and C Companies of the 1st Battalion, 121st Infantry Regiment, based in Lawrenceville and Gainesville.

``The tears are different this time. These are sweet tears,″ said Nanette Merritt of Decatur, who was there with her husband to meet their son, Spec. Shay Merritt, 26.

The rest of the 48th Brigade’s 4,300 troops are expected home by mid-May, said Jim Driscoll, a spokesman for the Georgia National Guard.

The 48th Brigade deployed to the Middle East last May, but most of its citizen-soldiers have been separated from their families and their civilian jobs since January 2005, when they mobilized for training at Fort Stewart.

A total of 26 guardsmen from the brigade have been killed.

The brigade comprises troops from Georgia, Alabama, Illinois, Maryland, Missouri, Rhode Island and Puerto Rico. It was the largest combat unit of the Georgia National Guard to deploy overseas since World War II.

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