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SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- Dozens of wounded soldiers were carried off an Air Force cargo plane on stretchers or limped off on crutches Wednesday, as one of the first large planeloads of those injured in the war in Iraq arrived back in the United States.
Others have been flown home individually; one Marine with shrapnel wounds arrived Saturday night at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland.
But spokeswoman Sue Campbell of Wilford Hall USAF Medical Center at Lackland Air Base said Wednesday's group of 47 was believed to be the largest to arrive so far. Most are being treated at U.S. military facilities in Germany first.
The 47, who arrived from Germany about 1:30 a.m., were from various branches of the service and range from ambulatory to critically injured, said Wilford Hall spokesman Dewey Mitchell.
"Some were being escorted," he said. "Some were on crutches.
Some had bandages on. Some of them looked like they were walking with a limp. There were an awful lot of stretchers."
Eight patients were sent to Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston. Thirty-three were expected to be transferred later Wednesday to military hospitals closer to their homes, and the other six could leave the medical center later in the week, Mitchell said.
"Welcome Home" banners and yellow ribbons greeted those arriving at Wilford Hall, and Mitchell said the new patients were happy to be back on U.S. soil and glad the long flight was over.
"I think they're resting up and hopefully going to be on the road to recovery," he said.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)