The Delaware National Guard's 261st Signal Brigade gets ready for a big ceremony on Legislative Mall.


    They’re home.

    The 110 members of the 261st Signal Brigade of Delaware’s Army National Guard arrived back in the United States Sept. 26 to a tumultuous welcome from their friends and family members. A more formal, albeit equally heartfelt, celebration will take place today on Legislative Mall in Dover.

    Gov. Jack Markell and Vice President Joe Biden will be in attendance.

    The sons and daughters of the First State did yeoman’s work during their year away from home and they deserve every plaudit in the book. However, as they transition from the active Army back to National Guard status and resume their civilian lives, we cannot forget there are thousands of American men and women still in harm’s way in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    We also need to remember that even though our soldiers now are home, the First State still plays a major role in both wars.

    And we will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. In addition to the Charles C. Carson Center for Mortuary Affairs, the base soon will house the military’s DNA laboratory and a facility dedicated solely to organizing and returning the personal effects of our war dead.

    These investments make it clear that despite our desire to turn the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts over to their own people, the Obama administration, like that of George Bush, realizes we will be involved in that area of the world for quite some time. Simply put, we have no choice; our national security is fundamentally tied to it.

    And the First State is tied to it as well. Members of our Air National Guard, although not deployed en masse as are their Army brethren, are flying missions in combat zones. People who call Delaware home are scattered throughout the world, serving in all branches of our military services and Reserve personnel and civilians continue to support the missions at Dover AFB.

    Whether you support our efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan — and there are those who do not — the men and women of our armed services continue to deserve our respect and admiration for their willingness to leave home and to take on what sometimes may seem like a thankless job.

    I was at the passenger terminal on Dover Air Force Base when a squad of regular Army troops, just back from overseas, appeared. They were wearing desert uniforms and carrying M-16s. They looked tired, but also very happy to be back on American soil.

    Unfortunately, Dover was just a way station on their trip home, so none of their wives or children were there to greet them. But every person in that terminal stood and applauded as they went through.

    No doubt they were a little embarrassed by the attention, but I know deep down they appreciated it.