A warm, official welcome for New Hampshire's 237th
Spc. James Austin of Littleton shows his awards to family and friends after a ceremony to hornor the members of the 237th Military Police Company. The company was honored in a ceremony Sunday at Southern New Hampshire University. Bruce Preston / Union Leader
MANCHESTER — Members of the 237th Military Police Company of the New Hampshire Army National Guard savored every moment of Sunday's official welcome-home ceremony.
"Soldiers are pretty humble. A lot of times they'll say they don't want the recognition or that's not the important part of it," said Capt. Sam Weber of Dover, commanding officer for the 237th. "It is a pretty good feeling seeing your congressional delegates up there saying some good things and kind words honoring what you have done. It does make a difference."
Spc. Dylan Lheureux of Manchester holds his 2-year-old neice, Haley Lheureux, after a ceremony to hornor the members of the 237th Military Police Company Sunday. The Company was deployed in Afghanistan from April 16, 2013 to Jan. 3, 2014. Bruce Preston / Union Leader
Gov. Maggie Hassan, U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte and Congresswomen Carol Shea-Porter and Ann Kuster each delivered remarks with the theme of "thanks" to the soldiers for fulfilling their duty. They also recognized the sacrifices made by the families at home during the nine-month deployment in Afghanistan.
"Because of your efforts, our country will be safer and our freedom will be stronger," Hassan said during the 90-minute homecoming celebration in the field house at Southern New Hampshire University.
U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte chats with Sgt. Audra Vigliotte of Seabrook shortly before a ceremony to honor the members of the 237th Military Police Company at Southern New Hampshire University on Sunday afternoon. The company was deployed in Afghanistan from April 16, 2013 to Jan. 3, 2014. Bruce Preston / Union Leader
"They haven't been forgotten. That goes a long way with the soldiers," 1st Lt. Eric Mayo of Bow said. "It's quite the showing for just 110 guys."
"We definitely couldn't do it without the support we get. It means the world to us," Spc. Roy Brigham of Worcester, Mass., said.
From left, Sgt. Robert Thibeault, Sgt. Pia Towle-Kimball, Spc. Jacob Vanblarcom and Sgt. Audra Vigliotte wait in line to receive their awards during a ceremony to honor the members of the 237th Military Police Company at Southern New Hampshire University Sunday. BRUCE PRESTON/UNION LEADER
SNHU was also the site for the send-off ceremony last February, when the 110 members of the 237th left behind their homes and families. Although the soldiers have been home since January, many appeared touched by the lengths the Guard and political leaders went to Sunday. Each member was called up to the dais by name for a handshake and personal thank-you from each of the speakers.
First Lt. Mark Griffin of Jaffrey said he was impressed to see all four members of Congress join the governor Sunday.
"Their schedules are so busy, for all five of them to show up and actually be here for this, it was pretty nice to see them," Griffin said.
The original assignment for the 237th was to help train Afghan police, but the 237th was reassigned six weeks after arriving in Afghanistan to conduct U.S. Customs inspections and border security as well as daily peacekeeping duties. It was the first deployment for 77 members. At least one was answering the call for the fifth time. And all 110 who went returned."We're very grateful. Coming home, knowing people actually appreciate what you did and what your soldiers did," Griffin said. "What I like to see is recognition for my soldiers coming back. That's the most important thing."