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744th Engineer Company from Ogden comes home to reception of family


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HILL AIR FORCE BASE -- Even though her son was less than an hour away, for Erin Stoof, it still seemed like forever

"I'm extremely excited to have him home, to have him back with us, but so proud that he served," said Stoof.

There's something special about a military homecoming where the tears are different than when they left. For these families it's all about happiness, about reconnecting with moms and dads, sons and daughters.

More than a hundred soldiers landed at Hill Air Force Base this afternoon. The reserve unit is out of Ogden and spent the past year deployed in Afghanistan. They're part of the 744th Engineer Company and their mission was to clear roads of explosive devices and other dangers -a tough assignment for the company. There were several injuries, and 21-year old Cpl. Raphael Arruda, of South Ogden, was killed when his vehicle hit an improved explosive device. It was another reminder of how dangerous their mission was, but makes finally coming home even more special.

So when the airplane carrying the rest of Cpl. Arruda's teammates landed at Hill Air Force Base today, everyone knew these soldiers were finally safe. And for Stoof's son, Jeremy, that landing was met with necklaces full of Snickers, Nestle Crunches, and 100-Grand candy bars.

It also meant that families were together again and daughters didn't need stuffed bears to replace daddy anymore.

"It's kind of unreal at first. It takes you a little while to get used to everybody, but it's exciting," said Sgt. Kelly Chartier of the 744th Engineer Company.

"It's awesome. It's too much to handle right on, I guess, but it's amazing," said Alex Lewis of the 744th Engineer Company.

Stoof just had a hard time believing this soldier in front of her was her little boy.

"He looks good! He's grown up since he's been gone," she said.

Seeing him smile at all the candy, though, reminded her of her little boy. And now, these soldiers can relax and not be on edge all the time.

"Still trying to take it all in, but it's nice to know we're home," said Spc. Stoof.

There are still a few members of their team still in Afghanistan finishing up work, and when they come home and the whole company is together again, there is going to be a big party.

Email:acabrero@ksl.com.

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