Reservists return home after 13-month tour of duty

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(Host) More than 80 Army Reservists based in Rutland returned home Monday after 13 months of active duty, including a tour in Kuwait.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports.

(Reservist) “Incredible, this is an incredible welcoming.”

(Zind) The reservists piled out of the buses that had carried them from Fort Drum, New York and into the arms of a crowd of family and friends. It was a homecoming with little ceremony as reservists grabbed their green duffel bags and headed home. Most live in the Rutland area.

Ann Shaw says she watched the clock all day, waiting for the bus carrying her son, Miles Krans. Monday, the emotions she’d kept in check for 13 months came to the surface.

(Shaw) “It was probably most emotional watching them coming up Route 7. That’s where I lost it.”

(Zind) Surrounded by family and friends, Jeffrey Wimette of Bristol holds one of his twin daughters. The girls were born during Wimette’s tour of duty. An electrician by trade, Wimette was a construction supervisor in Kuwait, helping build camps for U.S. forces. Wimette says Kuwait was an alien world of sand, camels, garbage, and diesel fumes – one he wouldn’t like to return to.

(Wimette) “Would I volunteer to go back? No. Would I go back if they told me? Yes, because I’m a soldier. And some people have a hard time understanding that but my wife understands it, and she’s my biggest support and I love her for it.”

(Zind) Wimette’s wife, Lea, says she had hoped that her husband would return from Kuwait by the time their daughters were born. But his tour was extended – a change that was difficult to deal with.

(Lea Wimette) “It was very frustrating. It was almost angering. We were under the impression they would be there for six months. No one really said that to us, the orders didn’t say that, but we were under that impression.”

(Zind) Jeffrey Wimette was able to return to Vermont briefly last fall when his daughters were born. But he hasn’t seen them since they were only a few days old. He says he’ll wait a few weeks to go back to work so he can spend time getting to know his new family.

The C Company Engineers are part of the 368th Battalion based in Londonderry, New Hampshire. Last year, all 400 members of the battalion were activated to support U.S. troops in Iraq.

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

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