February 21, 2005 – Midday Report

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(Steve Delaney) From sandstorms to snowstorms, from Iraq to Vermont: abrupt changes for the 200 Vermont National Guard members who came home by way of the Burlington airport early this morning.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the return home ceremony for Task Force Redleg, the first battalion of the 186th Artillery.” (Sound of applause.)

Good afternoon, this is the Midday Report. I’m Steve Delaney.

VPR’s Steve Zind has covered a lot of departures by the Vermont National Guard. But this morning he was there to see the end of the journey for 185 Guard members newly home from the war in Iraq:

(Zind) They began arriving at the National Guard hanger at the Burlington Airport shortly after 3 a.m. – wives and parents, siblings and in-laws, with sleepy children in tow. Roberta Hodgdon of Hardwick led a convoy of half a dozen vehicles filled with family to welcome back her husband, Archie. For her nearly a year and a half of anxiety and separation are almost over.

(Hodgdon) “It’s hard. We’ve been married 28 years and haven’t been apart much.”

(Zind) The two chartered jets bringing the soldiers from New Jersey were delayed by weather but shortly after 7 a.m. the airplanes touched down in Burlington to end the long journey from Iraq. .

“If I could have your attention please. The soldiers are getting off the planes” (Sound of cheering.)

(Zind) When the hanger door opened the 185 Vermont Army guardsmen appeared in formation, standing in desert fatigues in the swirling snow. Then they fell out to join their families.

Kevin Davis of Waitsfield echoed the sentiments of many of the returning guardsmen when asked what he’ll remember most from his year in Iraq:

(Davis) “Friendships. Lost friends and good friends met.”

(Zind) Lost friends included four members of the unit who died while deployed. They were remembered in speeches, and represented at the ceremony by surviving family members.

This was the first contingent of Vermont Guard members to come back from Iraq. Well over a thousand are still deployed, including a small group of fifteen that is shipping out on Monday.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind in South Burlington.

This week in the Vermont Legislature, the Senate will address a bill that would require utilities to make sure that renewable sources are part of their mix of power supplies. Critics say that would drive costs up, and would not provide much additional energy.

Members of the State Supreme Court will have a chance this week to answer criticisms that arose in a public hearing on their performance. Several are facing complaints over their parts in the decision that led to the civil union law for same-sex couples. A joint House and Senate vote on whether to retain the justices in office will be held in the middle of March.

Julius Canns died on Sunday in St. Johnsbury, on his eighty-second birthday. He was 70 years old when he was first elected to the Senate. Governor Jim Douglas remembers that he got to know Canns long before he went to Montpelier. Governor Jim Douglas spoke Monday morning on the passing of State Senator Julius Canns of St. Johnsbury.

Elsewhere, former Governor Howard Dean promised that he would take his effort to strengthen the Democratic Party into the Republican heartland and this week he’s targeted one of the most Republican states in the country. On Friday the new chairman of the Democratic National Committee goes to Lawrence, Kansas, for a fund-raiser and pep rally. A Kansas Democrat who supported Dean for president last year says the trip serves to remind Kansas Democrats not to be discouraged.

It’s ten minutes after twelve o’clock.

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