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National Guard 869th Engineering Company returns after 11 months in Afghanistan

By Alice Du Pont

Three chartered buses pulled into the parking lot of the A.O. Shelfer National Guard Armory in Quincy a few minutes after noon Jan. 8. More than 100 people were waiting, some of them waving the American flag and others carrying “welcome home” signs for the passengers. Coming home were 59 members of the National Guard 869th Engineering Company who were returning after 11 months in Afghanistan.

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“I thank God. I am so grateful; I’m just so glad she’s home” said Donna Johnson, through tears of joy. She hugged her daughter, Jamie Bradwell, close to her. Bradwell held a bouquet of red roses wrapped in red, white and blue ribbons that her mother had brought as a welcome home gift.

Bradwell, who is no stranger to deployment, has already spent a year in Iraq before Afghanistan.

“It’s my job, but leaving home never gets easier. I’m just happy to be back,” Bradwell said.

Kimberly Jones only wanted to get off the bus and see her three children. Her daughter, 12-year-old De’Ambernique James, had no idea her mom was coming home Monday. Neither did she know why she was called to the office during the sixth period class. When she walked, in she was greeted by the principal, Lamar Kirkland, who wanted to know if she got everything she wanted for Christmas.

She was still looking at the principal and wondering why he was asking her about Christmas, but when she turned around, she saw her Mom she was speechless. Christmas was really here and it came on Jan 8.

Not knowing what to say, De’Ambernique covered her mouth with both hands and smiled.

“What are you doing here?” she asked, and gave her mother another hug. After a few more hugs, she ran out of the office to get her backpack.

“I got to go get my things,” she said, as her mother signed her out so she could leave the campus.

James said she hadn’t planned much after picking up her children. After all, she had two more to surprise and take out of school.

Mikera Isom said she knew exactly what she was going to do when she got home. For months she had been dreaming of just how good it would feel to finally take a bubble bath.

“That’s the first thing I’m going to do; then I’m going to spend a lot of time with my family,’ she said.