The last Missouri National Guard members have returned to the state as part of the U.S. military’s withdrawal from Iraq.

Major General Stephen Danner says the 23 members of the 139th Airlift Wing of the Air National Guard are home just in time to be with their families for Christmas. Those soldiers were providing security at Bagdad International Airport.

Missouri's Adjutant General, Major General Stephen Danner extends holiday greetings to Missourians from the Missouri National Guard. Photo courtesy, Missouri National Guard.

The 139th is based in St. Joseph.

Danner says for a military man or woman, being home for the holidays is tremendous. “When you’re out in the field you’ve got your buddies with you that you celebrate the holidays with, but we all know that no matter how good our friends are, our families are our blood. You always want to be home with your family and especially with your kids. That’s something you just can’t replace and you can’t live over again.”

Had it not been for this withdrawal, the General says it is unclear how long the Guard might have had a presence in Iraq. The 139th was on a 6 month deployment. Danner says, “I know that at one point they thought that the Iraqi government would ask them to stay on maybe another couple of years. But, obviously that did not happen and I know these airmen, being the last Missourians out of Iraq, will be glad to be home this week.”

Though the last Missouri National Guard personnel have left Iraq, General Danner points out there are many still deployed across the globe. That includes, “…a medical unit and an administrative unit in Egypt, right now in the Sanai with U.N. forces, we had the 138th infantry in Japan not too long ago, we’ve had Air Guard in Thailand, we’ve been in Africa with the Army Guard and with the Air Guard went down to Chile in their earthquake earlier this year, and we also have Air and Army Guard in Central America.”

The general notes, the Guard has remained on State Emergency Duty since April 2, and he expects to remain on that status through March and perhaps longer. “We’ve had over 2,500 Army and Air Guardsmen activated for our state mission.”