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Second round of returning soldiers will get Roseburg welcome

 Posted: 10:50 AM April 28, 2010

The homecoming ceremony for the remaining 160 members of the Oregon Army National Guard's 1st Battalion 186th Infantry returning from Iraq will be Friday afternoon in Roseburg.

The event begins at 4 p.m. in the Roseburg High School gymnasium, according to Sgt. 1st Class Larry Williams at the 1/186th headquarters at the Ashland Armory.

"This is not a demobilization — this is a 'welcome home' for the rest of the unit coming back," he said, noting the battalion's demobilization was held Saturday at South Medford High School when some 320 members of the unit returned to a warm reception. The soldiers returning this week were delayed because of a flight delay out of Kuwait, officials said.

However, Friday's ceremony will include presentations by Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski, a former Marine, and Maj. Gen. Fred Rees, the state's adjutant general. Battalion commanding officer Lt. Col. Greg Day of Grants Pass and command Sgt. Major Theodore Santoyo are also expected to address assembled troops, Williams said.

The ceremony is being held in Roseburg because the bulk of those returning are from the Coos Bay area, he said, adding that about 40 are from the Medford area.

Although the ceremony isn't expected to be as big as the one held in Medford, it will include a flag line by veterans and patriotic music. The public is encouraged to attend, he said.

A few of the unit's soldiers may still be completing medical processing at Fort Lewis, Wash. where each member of the returning unit spent nearly a week before returning home, he said.

The 1/186th, which has units in Ashland, Medford, Grants Pass, Roseburg, Coos Bay and St. Helens, deployed some 600 citizen soldiers to Iraq as part of the 2,800 from the Guard's 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team. The deployment was the largest in Oregon since World War II.

— Paul Fattig

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