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Published: Friday, 5/3/2013

Families reunited as soldiers return

1,500 help welcome troops at ceremony

BY FEDERICO MARTINEZ
BLADE STAFF WRITER
1st. Lt. Cory Eickholt of Ottoville, Ohio, plays with his nephews Nathan, 2, left, and Cray, 2, at the conclusion of the welcome-home ceremony for the 323rd Military Police Company at CedarCreek Church in Perrysburg Township. 1st. Lt. Cory Eickholt of Ottoville, Ohio, plays with his nephews Nathan, 2, left, and Cray, 2, at the conclusion of the welcome-home ceremony for the 323rd Military Police Company at CedarCreek Church in Perrysburg Township.
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He’s served four stints in the U.S. military. Some of those deployments have been more dangerous than others.

But Staff Sgt. Gregory Grames, 41, of Toledo was never more “nervous and scared” than he was Thursday, when he met his 3-month-old daughter, Alexandria, for the first time.

“It feels good — it feels good to be home” Sergeant Grames said softly, a look of disbelief still etched across his face as he gently cradled his daughter. Flanking him were his wife, Robin, and their other children, Laney, 11, and Jaylen, 4.

Sergeant Grames was among 130 soldiers from the 323rd Military Police Company who returned to Ohio on Thursday after being deployed in Middle East for the last 10 months. More than 1,500 family members, friends, and supporters turned out to greet the soldiers at a welcome home ceremony at CedarCreek Church in Perrysburg Township.

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The soldiers, who are enlisted in the Ohio National Guard, were responsible for perimeter security at Camp As Sayliyah, on the outskirts of the capital city of Doha, Qatar.

The troops returned to the United States two weeks ago but had just flown into northwest Ohio on Thursday.

Brig. Gen. John Harris, Jr., told the soldiers that they are deserving of the hero’s welcome, even if they did not see combat during their deployment.

“There’s been nothing easy about what you’ve done,” he said. “I think you had one of the toughest assignments out there. You had a mission where there wasn’t a defining moment, which means you did your mission successfully.

“What you did for the last few months made the bad guys decide to go somewhere else.”

Emma Keith, 6, of Maumee made sure everyone knew her father, Staff Sgt. William Keith, was one of the “good guys.” She wore a bright pink T-shirt that declared, “Waddy is my hero, and I’m his Princess.”

When Emma was younger, she couldn’t pronounce the word “daddy,” correctly, and the nickname just sort of stuck, said her mother, Sara Keith.

No words or explanations were necessary when Emma and her father were finally reunited — the two just hugged each other tightly in silence for several moments.

“It’s been a very emotional day,” Mrs. Keith said as she joined in the family hug. “It’s been a long time since we’ve seen him. We’re just so excited that he’s back.”

Dignitaries also were present to welcome home the soldiers.

Toledo Mayor Mike Bell praised the soldiers for “serving their country” and presented the company’s head, Capt. Andrew Hawkins, an honorary key to the city as a show of appreciation for the troops’ efforts.

But the day belonged to the returning soldiers and their families.

Specialist Michael Robinet, 25, of Toledo was welcomed home by his grandparents. It was his first deployment.

“It was definitely a good experience,” he said. “I think it made me more confident and helped me grow as a person.

“But it’s good to be able to spend time with family.”

Contact Federico Martinez at:

fmartinez@theblade.com

or 419-724-6154.



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