News: 235th soldiers' return home celebrated at ceremony
Story by Staff Sgt. Michael Beck
RAPID CITY, S.D. – Amid the members of the 235th Military Police Company sat hundreds of family members, friends and community supporters at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City Dec. 23 to welcome home 124 soldiers from the South Dakota Army National Guard unit. The 235th just returned from a nine-month deployment to Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Today’s ceremony in their honor included speakers Gov. Dennis Daugaard, Rapid City Mayor Sam Kooiker and Maj. Gen. Tim Reisch, adjutant general of the SDNG.
Today marks the end of the third mobilization for the 235th. The unit previously deployed in support of Operation Noble Eagle to Fort Carson, Colo., in 2003, as well as to Afghanistan in support of OEF in 2006.
Family members were overjoyed when the buses arrived with their escort provided by the Rapid City Police Department, Pennington County Sheriff’s Department and the South Dakota Highway Patrol.
“It still seems unreal. It hasn’t quite set in yet,” said Sandy Crown, mother of Spc. David VanVleck, both of Hermosa. “It will finally seem normal when he is asleep at home tonight.”
The Civic Center theater was filled almost to capacity with family, friends and well-wishers throughout the ceremony.
Reisch spoke of reintegration of the 235th soldiers back into their families.
“A lot of decisions have been made while you were gone,” said Reisch. “I ask the soldiers to ease back into the way things were.”
The Rapid City and Sioux Falls-based 235th deployed in February with a mission to provide security for U.S. military personnel, installation and facilities, and to guard prisoners of war and civilian internees. The unit also trained Afghan National Army soldiers in detainee operations, security, personnel and vehicle search and entry control point operations.
Capt. Thaddeus Schmit, commander of the 235th, remarked about the recognition from the active duty headquarters during their deployment.
“The sergeant major said, ‘When I am asked who my best line company is, I say the 235th MP company,'” said Schmit. “The brigade colonel said, ‘I wish I could clone your unit and have five more companies just like it.’”
Daugaard remarked on the timeliness of the unit’s return in time for the Christmas holiday.
“The best Christmas presents are here two days before Christmas,” said Daugaard. “Welcome home.”