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Returning soldiers given welcome

TIMES STAFF WRITER
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FORT DRUM — Darious M. Nelson, 7, and brother Elijah N., 4, didn't know they were at a homecoming ceremony to watch their father come home from an 11-month deployment when they sat on the bleachers at Magrath Sports Complex on Sunday afternoon.


Their mother, Donlita S., told them she was there to meet a friend — her best friend.


"They're clueless," she said, as she waited for her husband, Staff Sgt. Arron A. Nelson, to march into the gym alongside 200 other members of the 10th Mountain Division's 2nd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment.


Her husband was part of the last major group of the 850-strong battalion to come home.


The unit left in January, months ahead of the 1st Brigade, to train members of the Afghan National Army. The rest of the 3,500-soldier brigade is expected home in the spring.


Earlier this month, Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of international troops in Afghanistan, caught up with members of the "Triple Deuce" battalion to award them a Meritorious Unit Commendation.


During its deployment, the battalion trained more than 50,000 Afghan National Army soldiers — more than 70 percent of the force — in 18 locations across the country, according to a brigade news release.


Sunday's ceremony originally was scheduled for Dec. 13 but was delayed at least twice.


Once the soldiers were released, Mrs. Nelson and her boys rushed to embrace Sgt. Nelson after the children figured out he was the friend their mother had spoken of.


"I didn't know," Elijah said.

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