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August 30. 2013 12:05AM

Warm homecoming for NH soldiers returning from Afghanistan


William Fish a Blackhawk pilot, hugs his son Major, 5, after returning from a 9-month deployment to Afghanistan, at Manchester-Boston Regional Airport, in Manchester, on Thursday. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)

MANCHESTER — Five-year-old Major Fish scampered through Manchester-Boston Regional Airport to give his dad a hug for the first time in nearly a year.

"Daddy! Daddy!" Major shouted as he ran toward Chief Warrant Officer 2 William Fish of Gilmanton, who returned to New Hampshire on Thursday evening from a tour in Afghanistan with the 169th Medevac Detachment of the New Hampshire Army National Guard.

Fish, a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter pilot, and his roommate and copilot while they were in Afghanistan, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jon Shallow of Hampton Beach, left Sept. 29 of last year for training in Fort Hood, Texas. They served a nine-month tour in Afghanistan's Helmand Province.

"It's great" to be home, Shallow said. "It's been a long time coming."

Fish described the country as a constant of hot, dusty desert. He and Shallow flew medical rescue missions into what Shallow called "the worst situations where people are having the worst days of their lives."

"It was 95 percent sheer boredom and 5 percent sheer terror," Fish said of his deployment.

"You wait and wait and wait, and then the call comes in and you go as quick as you can and you fire the aircraft up and go help whoever needs help. Then you go park it for a little while and wait for the next one."

Major, who called Fish's arrival "great," was echoed by Shallow's sister, Christine Patane of Goffstown.

"It's so fabulous," she said while standing next to her brother outside the airport. "I'm so happy he's home."

"Now he can harass me from nearby instead of from overseas," she said with a laugh.

Maj. Gen. William N. Reddel greeted Fish and Shallow as they came through the airport gate and said he was relieved to greet another couple of troops who made it home safely.

"You always pray that things will work out for the best," he said. "Anytime I can see a family member greeting their (family) member; it's pretty cool."

Lt. Col. Gregory Heilshorn, spokesman for the New Hampshire Army National Guard, said 10 more soldiers are expected to arrive tonight.

tbuckland@unionleader.com


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