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SCHWEINFURT, Germany — There will be no official welcome-home party for the Dagger Brigade.

Instead, January will be one long remembrance of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division mission in Iraq.

“The better part of the month of January will be spent to recognize the job the brigade did (in Iraq),” Lt. Col. Robert Whittle, commander of Task Force Guardian, Dagger’s rear detachment, said Tuesday.

A garrison-wide Winterfest party, sponsored by Morale, Welfare and Recreation, is planned for Jan. 25, and a formal portion honoring Dagger Brigade is set to kick things off, Whittle said.

Also planned are memorial services honoring the unit’s fallen and wounded, with a brigadewide service on Jan. 23, and time for battalion-specific ceremonies the day prior.

“We’re doing the right thing for soldiers and families in terms of closure from a very long deployment,” said Lt. Col. Steve Miska, the brigade’s deputy commander.

Last January, a cash-strapped U.S. Army Europe canceled large-scale welcome-home celebrations, which often would include free food, rides and well-known entertainment acts.

Nearly a year later, the situation remains the same.

Representatives from both Installation Management Command-Europe and V Corps said Tuesday that the policy instituted in early 2007 has not been altered to allow for the more lavish celebrations.

Miska added that much of what the brigade has planned is being made possible by citizens of Westin, Conn., who, behind businessman Gil Sanborn, have been supporting the Dagger Brigade for months. Those efforts have ranged from “Adopt-a-Platoon” care packages sent downrange to $1,000 in upgrades to the gym where Miska and his men exercised while deployed.

Westin residents have also started a program to donate airline miles to help family members who wish to fly in to attend the memorials, Miska said, adding that some of the funds for the planned Winterfest have also come from Connecticut.

“(Westin’s) support has been great. It just goes to show that regardless of people’s political beliefs, they want to support the soldiers,” Whittle said.

Also planned throughout January are volunteer recognition ceremonies to honor the community’s many family support groups, as well as the Jan. 7 casing of Task Force Guardian’s colors.

As for the planned welcome-home events occurring in January, as opposed to before Christmas, Dagger Commander Col. J.B. Burton, said, “We have all watched redeployed brigade combat teams get called back into the fight. … To hold something now would mean I would have to recall (1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment) off of leave.”

The Blue Spaders of 1-26 were the first to go and the first to return from the brigade.

The 4,000-plus Dagger soldiers who call Schweinfurt home have all returned, the final 212 marching into Finney Fitness Facility on Tuesday.

Members from each of the brigade’s 10 subordinate units were included in that “trail party,” the soldiers having spent the last several weeks in Kuwait loading boats with equipment.

Reporter John Vandiver contributed to this story.


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