Kentucky National Guard unit comes home from Middle East to cheers, hugs

Sgt. Nathan Doolin with the Kentucky National Guard’s 206th Engineer Battalion hugs his daughter, Everly, 2, with his wife, Valeri Doolin, as they are reunited Thursday at the Owensboro National Guard Armory.


By RENEE BEASLEY JONES | Messenger-Inquirer | Published: June 12, 2020

OWENSBORO, Ky. (Tribune News Service) — A woman ran across the lawn of the Youngman Readiness Center on Thursday afternoon, leaped into a soldier’s open arms and wrapped her legs around his waist.

Members of the Kentucky National Guard’s 206th Engineer Battalion — two planes full of soldiers — arrived in Owensboro, after spending nearly a year deployed in Kuwait, Syria and Iraq.

One by one, soldiers burst out of the armory’s doors and made a beeline for loved ones.

Each time a soldier appeared, the family-only crowd applauded and cheered “whoo-hoo.”

People carried banners and signs.

T-shirts read “Proud Army Dad” and “Proud Army Mom.”

Folks wore clothes decorated with the U.S. flag motif.

It looked and sounded like a July Fourth celebration.

Sgt. Tara Roseboom, 25, of Lexington, said the temperature hit 118 degrees on the unit’s last day in Kuwait.

“We sat outside all day, waiting for the box truck to get our baggage,” Roseboom said.

From Kuwait, it was a 30-hour flight — with layovers in Italy, Germany and Maine — to Fort Bliss, Texas, where the soldiers sat in quarantine 14 days.

Roseboom earned a promotion and reenlisted for another six years while she was in the Middle East, and she made several friends.

“But it’s not an experience I want to go through again,” Roseboom said.

Her mom, dad, brother and Dachshund named Dash made the trip from Fort Morgan, Colorado, to welcome her back to Kentucky.

Her parents, David and Lisa Roseboom, served in the U.S. Army. Her dad was deployed to Saudi Arabia during Desert Storm, and her mom served in Korea.

Although their family has a military background, Lisa Roseboom was frightened for her daughter’s safety.

“There were reports of bombings, and it was areas where she was. I know they are prepared for that, but it still scares you,” Lisa Roseboom said.

Scott Butler, of Henderson, welcomed his son Spc. Justin Butler home with a long hug.

The last year has been nerve-racking “wondering if he’s alive or not,” Scott Butler said.

As a procession of vehicles made its way from the Owensboro-Daviess County Regional Airport to the Youngman Readiness Center, Scott Butler held a sign framed with balloons.

“Here comes the bus,” he shouted. “Here come our soldiers.”

Cheers went up as a string of law enforcement vehicles and Patriot Guard Riders escorted the first two busloads of soldiers to the armory. Families waved flags and held up banners as the buses passed.

Scott Butler said he was proud of his son.

“I’m kinda jealous. He’s only 21, and he’s seen the world,” Scott Butler said.

Justin Butler served four years in the ROTC before joining the National Guard at age 17.

His stint in the Middle East seemed long, he said.

“It felt kinda like a vacation — a vacation on a beach without water,” he said, with a chuckle.

The worst part of the tour was adjusting to the heat and sand.

On July 26, 2019, the 206th left Owensboro for the U.S. Central Command Area of Operations in the Middle East to conduct construction missions in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, a military intervention against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

©2020 the Messenger-Inquirer (Owensboro, Ky.)
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Pvt. Alexis Underwood of Glasgow, Ky., kisses her boyfriend, Anthony Thompson, outside of the Owensboro National Guard Armory on Thursday after returning from the Middle East with the Kentucky National Guard’s 206th Engineer Battalion.