Taunton, Mass. - Not even the cold and cloudy afternoon distracted the more than 200 family members, friends and fellow Soldiers welcoming home the 165 members of the 772nd Military Police Company of the Massachusetts National Guard at the Taunton Armory on October 17, 2009.
Flags, signs, balloons, yellow bows and a stream of red white and blue were lined up outside the armory and two large fire engines anxiously awaiting the return of the Soldiers.
Nearly one year ago, Soldiers of the 772nd said goodbye to their families on the Taunton Green. The 772nd Military Police Company mobilized during October of 2008 to Fort Dix, N.J. Today, they were home marching on Route 44, headed toward a cheering crowd.
“It is good to be home!” said Spc. Stephen McKenna of Natick, and a 5-year veteran of the Massachusetts National Guard, who was surrounded by several family and friend members. McKenna said he conducted security patrols as part of his duties and that it was a relief to be back home.
The Soldiers spent the last year in Iraq, training, mentoring and coaching Iraqi Police. The unit was led by Capt. Derek Baran of Marblehead, a 12-year veteran of the Massachusetts National Guard and 1st Sgt. Edward Peterson of Billerica, a 21-year veteran of the Massachusetts National Guard.
The Soldiers of the 772nd are no strangers to law enforcement; Baran is a 4-year veteran of the Massachusetts State Police and Peterson is a 4-year veteran of the Billerica Police Department. About 40 percent of the unit are employed by federal, state and municipal agencies and about 50 percent have deployed overseas at least one time.
Sgt. Jon Rose of Fall River, a team leader for the 772nd and an 18-year veteran of the Massachusetts National Guard, stated: “we conducted security patrols and vehicle checkpoint operations as part of our mission; it was very satisfying to complete it and return home.”
Rose who has now completed tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq was reunited with his wife Sarah and two daughters, Lauren and Maegan. Rose is also a 5-year veteran of the Fall River Police Department; “I’m looking forward to returning to the force,” he said.
Sgt. Glen MacDonald, also of Fall River, a team leader for the 772nd and a 13-year veteran of the Massachusetts National Guard echoed that it was good to be home. MacDonald, who served 4-years in the U.S. Marine Corps, has also been deployed to both Afghanistan and Iraq.
MacDonald stated that the company served in the role as a “Police Transition Team” and assisted the Iraqi Police to become a better trained force. MacDonald also has a background in law enforcement and is a 5-year veteran of the Fall River Police Department.
There were thoughts Saturday of Spc. Matthew Pollini of Rockland, who wasn’t among the group returning. Pollini, a newlywed, was killed in January when his vehicle overturned near al-Kut, Iraq.
Sen. Marc Pacheco, D-Taunton, was in attendance to show his support for the troops. “We’re very pleased that all but one member came back to us safe and sound,” Pacheco said. “We did lose one man in an accident and our hearts go out to his family. This is a real celebratory day for the families who have been waiting a year for their return. These men and women are true patriots.”
A more formal welcome home ceremony for the soldiers has yet to be scheduled.