National Guard Troops Return Home

About 400 Mississippi National Guard troops are returning home after a six-month peace keeping mission in Bosnia, military officials said Monday.

Maj. Danny Blanton, a National Guard spokesman, said 218 members of the 155th Battalion returned over the weekend and the remaining 165 will return Friday. They were deployed in September from McComb, Poplarville, Hattiesburg, Oxford and Booneville.

The unit was called up as part of an international effort to enforce a 1997 peace accord that ended a decades-long civil war in the region, Blanton said.

The guardsmen patrolled communities, inspected weapon storage sites, helped refugees return to their prewar homes and worked to remove land mines, Blanton said.

Anxious families waited at Camp Shelby on Sunday to greet the soldiers who were deployed just after Sept. 11.

Capt. Flynn Christian of Mobile, Ala., commander of the battalion, said troops were training for their mission at Fort Benning, Ga., when he and about 45 members of the unit watched on television as the second plane hit the World Trade Center.

"That gave us an opportunity to understand why we wear the uniform,'' he said.

Christian's wife, Donna, said, "I haven't seen him in six months. I'm ready for him to come home.''

Spc. T'mara Hall of Raleigh, was welcomed home by her parents, Bill and Connie Hall, and her brother Ian.

"I'm tickled to have her home,'' Bill Hall said.

T'mara Hall worked with Bosnian refugee children, distributing gifts of clothing, blankets and toys to them that she had solicited from friends and family back home.

"It was life-changing,'' she said of her time in Bosnia. "It's an experience I'll never forget.''

The Mississippi troops are being replaced by the Hawaii National Guard's 265th Infantry Division.