Queens troops’ return from Afghanistan thrills families

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For several Queens families, last week’s arrival of the 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team of the New York Army National Guard was a day long coming.

The National Guardsmen of the Jamaica−based unit had been deployed to Afghanistan last January and been away from home for a year, which felt like an eternity to some of their loved ones, like Joelle Martinez of Briarwood. The 22−year−old stay−at−home mother said she and her son, Gavin, 3, deeply missed her husband, Spec. Marco Martinez, 23, and the Jan. 8 reunion would strengthen their bonds.

“Our family is together again. We have no worries,” she said.

Martinez joined 22 other families and friends at the New York State Armory at 93−05 168th St. in Jamaica, for a hero’s welcome. The guardsmen arrived at LaGuardia Airport from Fort Bragg in North Carolina where they were formally debriefed.

The National Guard not only chartered a bus to drive the guardsmen from the airport to the armory, but also ordered a police escort to ensure that they arrived on time. Despite the red carpet treatment, Spec. John Haseney, 25, who was greeted by his parents, Ernest and Carolyn Haseney of College Point, said he was going to celebrate in his own low−key way.

“I don’t know. I’m going to go eat a pizza. Maybe get a beer, too,” he said.

While they were stationed in the Middle East, the unit was responsible for training the Afghan National Army and police. The guardsmen accomplished numerous goals during their yearlong tour, including helping to expand the Afghan army by more than 7,000 soldiers and assisting in 100 army operations.

In addition to the combat missions, the guardsmen took part in several infrastructure improvements and community services projects, building roads, hospitals and wells, and delivered 1,250 tons of humanitarian aid.

“It’s just a small token of appreciation that we have for them for what they have been doing for our country and our state,” said Capt. Brandon Gendron. “It means a lot to them. You can see it on their faces.”

Carprice Nesbit−Turane of Jamaica, whose son Sgt. Timothy Turane returned from his second deployment overseas, said she was grateful that the National Guard gave the troop a welcome home celebration. Seeing the guardsmen alive and well was a priceless present, according to her.

“Each one is individual,” Nesbit−Turane said of deployments. “Your loved one is going away from you and you don’t always know if he’s coming back.”

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e−mail at ipereira@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 146.

Updated 6:35 pm, October 10, 2011
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