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Dave Olson, Published May 15 2010

Sunshine, kisses greet returning National Guard soldiers from Kosovo

About 113 North Dakota Army National Guard troops arrived Friday afternoon in Fargo to be greeted by sunshine, smiles and kisses.

The soldiers were returning from Kosovo, where many had served about nine months as part of a U.N. peacekeeping mission.

Sgt. Alissa Andrus of Fargo, originally from Jamestown, N.D., said she was looking forward to having a big steak and – more importantly – spending time with family.

“That’s all I want to do, really,” she said.

One of the family members greeting her Friday was her father, Kevin Andrus, who said he also has a son serving in the military.

“I always worry when they’re away,” he said. “You can’t do much to help if something does come up.”

Alissa Andrus said she helped her father download Skype software onto his computer that allowed them to make phone calls and hold video conferences over the Internet.

Skype appeared to be a popular means of overseas communication for many of those arriving home Friday.

“It made life a lot easier, I’ll tell you that much,” said Staff Sgt. Brian Steiner, who was greeted by his wife, Trisha, and their two children, ages 5 and 15 months.

The Mapleton, N.D., couple said it will be awhile before they can do much catching up. Trisha Steiner said she will be working away from home this weekend.

“First days back he gets the kids to himself. Live in my shoes for a couple days,” she said.

When Sgt. Jon Steinmetz arrived at Fargo’s Hector International Airport, he was met by his wife, Andrea, and their five children, ages 3 to 9.

Andrea Steinmetz said before her husband left for Kosovo they sat the kids down to let them know he would be gone for a long time, but she said for a child “nine months is an eternity.”

She said many people worked to make things easier in his absence.

“My church supplied one meal a week to help out,” she said.

On hand Friday for the homecoming was North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven, who declared that “any day we get soldiers back is a great day.”

Hoeven said he had the honor of visiting the soldiers while they were in Kosovo and said “they did a fantastic job.

“We still got probably 500 soldiers over there and, of course, we’re anxious to welcome them home as well,” Hoeven said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555