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National Guard members return home for Thanksgiving

  • Carlton Crudup,  a member of the 182nd engineers division,   hugs his sister, Diana Daniels while his wife, Shawntea Crudup watches in the background. The troops had just arrived after a year in Afghanistan.

    Carlton Crudup, a member of the 182nd engineers division, hugs his sister, Diana Daniels while his wife, Shawntea Crudup watches in the background. The troops had just arrived after a year in Afghanistan. Purchase photo reprints »

  • People gathered out front the National Guard barracks to welcome home <br/>182nd engineers division troops  as they drove up in the bus after a year in  Afghanistan Thursday afternoon in Florence.<br/>

    People gathered out front the National Guard barracks to welcome home
    182nd engineers division troops as they drove up in the bus after a year in Afghanistan Thursday afternoon in Florence.
    Purchase photo reprints »

  • Ja'Zel Kempton,12, of Springfield makes a welcome home poster for her uncle, Carlton Crudup. A group, made up of family members and friends, gathered at the national guard barracks in Florence to welcome home 182nd engineers division troops after a year in  Afghanistan on Thanksgiving day in Florence. <br/>

    Ja'Zel Kempton,12, of Springfield makes a welcome home poster for her uncle, Carlton Crudup. A group, made up of family members and friends, gathered at the national guard barracks in Florence to welcome home 182nd engineers division troops after a year in Afghanistan on Thanksgiving day in Florence.
    Purchase photo reprints »

  • Mylyn Militante-Adbey, a volunteer with the USO, hands out flags to a group waiting for the 182nd engineers division  to arrive home after a year in Afghanistan on Thanksgiving day in Florence. <br/>

    Mylyn Militante-Adbey, a volunteer with the USO, hands out flags to a group waiting for the 182nd engineers division to arrive home after a year in Afghanistan on Thanksgiving day in Florence.
    Purchase photo reprints »

  •  Shawntea Crudup watches a group of 182nd engineers which includes her husband, Carlton Crudup, walk into the National Barracks in Florence after spending a  year in Afghanistan. <br/>

    Shawntea Crudup watches a group of 182nd engineers which includes her husband, Carlton Crudup, walk into the National Barracks in Florence after spending a year in Afghanistan.
    Purchase photo reprints »

  • Left Marianna Ferraz watches as her brother, Luiz Ferraz hold her son, Matthew Ferraz,4, of Washington State.  The group of 182nd engineers had just arrived in Florence after spending a year in  Afghanistan.

    Left Marianna Ferraz watches as her brother, Luiz Ferraz hold her son, Matthew Ferraz,4, of Washington State. The group of 182nd engineers had just arrived in Florence after spending a year in Afghanistan. Purchase photo reprints »

  • <br/>182nd engineers division  after just arriving in Florence after spending a year in Afghanistan.  The commander had just told them to pat themselves on the back for a job well done.


    182nd engineers division after just arriving in Florence after spending a year in Afghanistan. The commander had just told them to pat themselves on the back for a job well done. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Left Marianna Ferraz watches as her brother, Luiz Ferraz hold her son, Matthew Ferraz,4, of Washington State.  The group of 182nd engineers had just arrived in Florence after spending a year in  Afghanistan.

    Left Marianna Ferraz watches as her brother, Luiz Ferraz hold her son, Matthew Ferraz,4, of Washington State. The group of 182nd engineers had just arrived in Florence after spending a year in Afghanistan. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Carlton Crudup,  a member of the 182nd engineers division,   hugs his sister, Diana Daniels while his wife, Shawntea Crudup watches in the background. The troops had just arrived after a year in Afghanistan.

    Carlton Crudup, a member of the 182nd engineers division, hugs his sister, Diana Daniels while his wife, Shawntea Crudup watches in the background. The troops had just arrived after a year in Afghanistan. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Carlton Crudup,  a member of the 182nd engineers division,   hugs his sister, Diana Daniels while his wife, Shawntea Crudup watches in the background. The troops had just arrived after a year in Afghanistan.
  • People gathered out front the National Guard barracks to welcome home <br/>182nd engineers division troops  as they drove up in the bus after a year in  Afghanistan Thursday afternoon in Florence.<br/>
  • Ja'Zel Kempton,12, of Springfield makes a welcome home poster for her uncle, Carlton Crudup. A group, made up of family members and friends, gathered at the national guard barracks in Florence to welcome home 182nd engineers division troops after a year in  Afghanistan on Thanksgiving day in Florence. <br/>
  • Mylyn Militante-Adbey, a volunteer with the USO, hands out flags to a group waiting for the 182nd engineers division  to arrive home after a year in Afghanistan on Thanksgiving day in Florence. <br/>
  •  Shawntea Crudup watches a group of 182nd engineers which includes her husband, Carlton Crudup, walk into the National Barracks in Florence after spending a  year in Afghanistan. <br/>
  • Left Marianna Ferraz watches as her brother, Luiz Ferraz hold her son, Matthew Ferraz,4, of Washington State.  The group of 182nd engineers had just arrived in Florence after spending a year in  Afghanistan.
  • <br/>182nd engineers division  after just arriving in Florence after spending a year in Afghanistan.  The commander had just told them to pat themselves on the back for a job well done.
  • Left Marianna Ferraz watches as her brother, Luiz Ferraz hold her son, Matthew Ferraz,4, of Washington State.  The group of 182nd engineers had just arrived in Florence after spending a year in  Afghanistan.
  • Carlton Crudup,  a member of the 182nd engineers division,   hugs his sister, Diana Daniels while his wife, Shawntea Crudup watches in the background. The troops had just arrived after a year in Afghanistan.

Just in time to have their Thanksgiving meals with their families, the 25 National Guardsmen based at the Florence Armory returned home late Thursday morning, where they received greetings from happy spouses, parents, children, grandchildren and other relatives.

“It’s a great feeling. I’m glad to be alive,” said Carlton Crudup of Chicopee, who was greeted by his wife, Shawntea, 12-year-old son, Kyren Harris, sister Diana Daniels and numerous other members of his immediate and extended family.

Crudup, who completed his first tour of duty, said he was grateful to get back for the holiday. “I didn’t want to miss it,” he said.

His wife assured him the Thanksgiving meal would include turkey, sweet potatoes, macaroni and cheese and a number of other dishes.

The National Guardsmen flew into Hanscom Air Force Base in eastern Massachusetts, where they landed around 9 a.m., before being bused to Florence, arriving at 11:15 a.m.

The unit, known as Sapper, played an active role in Operation Enduring Freedom by making safe routes for other military personnel by detecting, marking, identifying and neutralizing suspected hazards, such as improvised explosive devices.

“Everything was new to me. It was a lot harder than I expected. It was very, very hard,” Crudup said.

“I am extremely happy and glad it’s over,” Shawntea Crudup said. “I’m so happy to have him home.”

Families gathered at the armory around 9:30 a.m., enjoying refreshments and making posters. Children played with toys provided by the Pioneer Valley USO.

A board was updated with the progress of the bus toward Florence. When it finally arrived, family members waved their flags, the uniformed men got off the bus in formation, and, after being asked to pat themselves on their backs, were released to their waiting families.

Holding a poster with the words “Welcome Home” at the top, and many other thoughts written in marker below, Kyren said during the last year he has been “worried and bored.” He added, “It was depressing.”

Shawntea Crudup said she tried to keep their spirits up by taking things day by day and staying busy.

Among the other Guardsmen who arrived home for Thanksgiving was Staff Sgt. Daniel Adams of South Deerfield, who was on his second tour of duty, the last completed in October 2006. An 18-year member of the National Guard, Adams said it is fantastic to be home.

“I’m going to enjoy Thanksgiving turkey with my family when I go home, and then watch the Pats and Jets tonight,” Adams said.

Even after his previous tour, Adams said it was no easier being away from his family.

“It was just as hard as the first one,” said Adams said, though he did have more opportunities to talk with family members, including his 13-year-old daughter, Lauren.

“It’s been tough,” said Lauren, who was able to chat with her father almost daily via the Internet. “We were able to talk a lot, so that made it easier.”

But nothing is like having her father home for the holidays. “It means a lot to me,” Lauren said.

Adams said the deployment was “very successful” from both the standpoint of clearing roads and the safety of those in the unit.

“Everyone is home with 10 fingers, 10 toes, two arms and two legs,” Adams said. “You can’t complain about that.”

Most of those in the unit will have about a month to recover and recuperate from their service before returning to their civilian jobs.

Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz and the city’s veterans agent, Steven J. Connor, were at the armory to show their appreciation to the service members.

“It’s exciting to see them back and reunited with their families,” Narkewicz said. “We thank them for their service in Afghanistan.”

Connor said the members of the 182nd Engineer Company show remarkable dedication because most serve part-time in the National Guard, yet they have been full-time soldiers for the past year.

“This is not the first time this unit has been on duty. It is impressive service to their country, state and community,” Connor said.

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