WDAZ: Your Home Team

Published July 28, 2010, 08:25 PM

After One Year, Soldiers Return From Kosovo

The last of the North Dakota National Guard soldiers deployed in Kosovo returned home today.

By: Meagan Millage, WDAZ

The last of the North Dakota National Guard soldiers deployed in Kosovo returned home today.

About 650 North Dakota soldiers were in Kosovo for a NATO peace keeping mission. Most returned last week, but some stayed behind to turn over command to the Puerto Rico National Guard. And that group is finally home.

Seven North Dakota National Guard soldiers were greeted by friends and family as they returned to Grand Forks today.

"It's great to be back with family again, and looking forward to spending some real quality time with everybody," Lt. Col. Ed Johnson said.

These soldiers were the last of about 650 to return to North Dakota after a yearlong deployment. Their mission was part of a NATO unit assigned to keep peace in Kosovo.

"Things could erupt spontaneously as far as issues come up, people would gather, protest, possibly demonstrate. But the biggest thing we were there to do is to prevent any riots, which we were effective at," Col. Lannie Runck said.

Their mission was the largest Army National Guard deployment in North Dakota since the Korean War.

"Just helping out the Kosovo people and really helping keep a safe environment," Lt. Col. Ed Johnson said.

And these soldiers consider their mission a success.

"[Kosovo is] realizing that to work together with Albanians and Serbians is required for them to get to where they need to be in the future," Maj. John Kapocius said.

With all accomplishments aside, these soldiers are just happy to be home.

"You don't realize it until you actually get home and see your family, then you really- emotions start to come forward," Maj. John Kapocius said.

"Feels great.. Yeah, excited to get back to some stability and move on to my next assignment," Col. Lannie Runck said.

This last group of about 40 National Guardsmen returned to Fargo, Minot, Bismark, and Grand Forks today.