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A welcome homecoming

Leanne Zolldan, embraces her son Specialist David Zolldan Friday night at the Stillwater Armory. Zolldan, of the Minnesota National Guard's 34th Military Police Company, spent a year in Iraq serving with the Red Bulls 34th Infantry Division. Staff photo by Hank Long.

Several hundred family, friends and supporters of the Red Bulls 34th Infantry Division packed the Stillwater Armory Friday night to welcome home their citizen soldiers who spent the last year in Iraq.

The 40 or so members of the 34th Military Police Company entered the armory at about 8:15 p.m. after touching down at Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport an hour earlier.

The soldiers were escorted to the armory in their coach buses by the Stillwater Police Department and the State Patrol. They represented the third of four waves of more than 1,200 returning Red Bulls. The soldiers have been welcomed home the last three weekends at armories in Stillwater, Rosemount and Inver Grove Heights.

The 34th MPs drill out of the Stillwater Armory and served as an attachment of the Red Bulls 34th Infantry Division that helped with Operation Iraqi Freedom in Basra, Iraq.

The soldiers first flew from Iraq to Fort Lewis, Washington for demobilization.

One of the returning 34th MPs, James Brandon, of Minneapolis, called his wife Shanna earlier this week from Fort Lewis to let her know he'd be home by Friday.

"He said the first thing he wanted to do was get pancakes at Perkins," Shanna said. "Apparently he's been craving them for about a year."

About a dozen members of David Zolldan's family arrived at the armory more than two hours before his arrival to set up hand-made posters and balloons.

Roger Zolldan said his son, a 2004 Stillwater High School graduate, requested a family Christmas when he returned from his deployment.

"It may be a month late, but we're going to celebrate this weekend," Roger Zolldan said.

Check www.woodburybulletin.com for more update on this story

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