ST. CLOUD, Minn. (WCCO) — The worrying is over for dozens of Minnesota families.

Their loved ones with the Minnesota National Guard returned home Tuesday after spending nearly a year in Afghanistan.

As they were saving lives overseas, new lives were beginning in some of their own homes.

Sgt. Reid Ronning’s wife, Michelle, gave birth to their daughter, Elsie, two months ago.

“I’ve seen pictures and videos of her,” Ronning said, “but she’s so precious.”

For nearly a year, 44 men and eight women from the Guard’s Company C 2-211th General Support Aviation Battalion flew medical missions in the western part of Afghanistan.

They evacuated the wounded from combat zones and trained soldiers from Italy, Spain, Lithuania, Slovenia and Poland to do the same.

“It’s amazingly significant,” said Capt. Nathan Burr. “We helped the lives of not only American soldiers but coalition and Afghan civilians and soldiers.”

One married couple, Drew and Emmy Glaze, served together, keeping their wedding rings off until now when they’re home.

“We’ve always looked at this and said ‘What are we going to do when we get home?’” said Drew Glaze. “And now it’s actually happened, and now we’ve got to figure out what we’re going to do.”

For all the pride over completing the mission, there’s still some regret over what they had to sacrifice.

Sgt. 1st Class Cassandra Houston’s son, Josh, finished school this year.

“I missed his college graduation,” she said, “so that was hard to take a little bit. My own kid and I missed his graduation.”

So as they’re honored for their service, they also focus on the ways their families have served.

Blackhawk helicopter pilot David Olson of Detroit Lakes credits his wife, Ashley, for taking care of their newborn, Cheyenne, as she waited for him to return.

“She’s amazing,” he said. “To go through all this without me, she’s pretty amazing.”


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