Soldiers celebrate safe return home

    Cheering crowds greeted close to 3000 members of the 50th Infantry Brigade Combat Team on the streets of Trenton today – the New Jersey National guard members celebrated their safe return from Iraq with a parade and welcome home ceremony.

    Cheering crowds greeted close to 3000 members of the 50th Infantry Brigade Combat Team on the streets of Trenton today – the New Jersey National guard members celebrated their safe return from Iraq with a parade and welcome home ceremony. Now that their nine-month tour of duty is over, soldiers face the challenges of reintegrating into civilian life.
    (Caption: A veteran of Pearl Harbor holds a flag as he watches National Guard members march past. Photos: Patrick Rumaker)

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    As soldiers return from deployment, they have to readjust to family life – and some will get to know new family members.

    welchmparde-nj-50th-infantry-091Augusta Melendez gave birth to daughter Lulu while her husband David was in Iraq. She says emails and video chats helped to keep her husband involved in family life while he was deployed – and they will work through the challenges of his transition:

    Melendez: We both know we just have to take it slow, and step by step, day by day, he is a great guy so I know he’ll be a great dad.

    Along with family members and supporters, mental health workers from New Jersey’s department of human services attended the parade. They distributed information about post traumatic stress disorder, encouraging soldiers to seek help for possible mental health issues.

    welchmparde-nj-50th-infantry-086Ellen Lovejoy of New Jersey’s department of human services says it is important that soldiers feel comfortable in reaching out for help:

    Lovejoy: We just want to make sure that the troops and their families fight the stigma that unfairly is attached to seeking help for mental health and get the services that can really help them recover and re-integrate.

    Lovejoy says New Jersey’s Council on Mental Health Stigma has launched an awareness campaign and trained counselors to help returning soldiers experiencing mental health issues.

    welchmparde-nj-50th-infantry-206Among the cheering crowds, Donna Betterfield was anxiously scanning the passing troops for her son, 22 year old Corporal John Granger. She says this day brings big relief:

    Betterfield: I’m happy that he is home, I’m happy that all the troops are coming home I’m very proud of my son, this is a very emotional time for me, it’s been a hard year, and I’m just really, I’m happy.

    Along with Betterfield’s son, all members of the unit returned home safely. While in Iraq, they provided security for convoys and guarded detainees.

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