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A company of cops in three communities were out in force Thursday night, celebrating their return from Iraq with family and friends.

For two of the towns, Hanau and Darmstadt, there will be no more such nights. That’s not because of any excesses by members of the 127th Military Police Company. It’s due to the pending closure of the communities as part of the ongoing restructuring of U.S. forces in Europe, particularly in Germany.

Baumholder, the third military community with soldiers in the company, will remain open for at least a few more years.

In all, 146 soldiers in the company returned home Thursday.

The welcoming party in Hanau began gravitating to the gym on Pioneer Kaserne in the early evening. The time of the ceremony had slipped several times in the past few days, which is not unusual for such events.

“It’s been so hard this whole week,” Marangelly Arce said of the frequent fluctuations in the schedule.

The 15-year-old daughter of Sgt. Ricardo Arce spoke from the gym floor as she and a couple of friends bided their time until the 80 Hanau-based troops arrived.

Marangelly’s family is going to Venice, Italy, once dad takes leave. Sheridyn Webb, 14, said her family is heading to California.

But, she added, just having her stepfather, Staff Sgt. Brian Saunders, home “is the best part because I know he is safe.”

Three soldiers did not make it home. They were: Spc. William A. Farrar Jr., 3rd Platoon, Darmstadt; Sgt. Bruce A. Horner, 2nd Platoon, Baumholder; and Spc. Matthew M. Murchison, 1st Platoon, Hanau. They were killed in combat.

Among the unit’s individual awards, there were two Army Commendation Medals with valor, 13 Purple Hearts and 25 Bronze Star Medals, according to Sgt. 1st Class Kirby M. Peidl of Hanau.

As was the case in Hanau, the receptions at the other posts were just as heartfelt — and protracted.

In Darmstadt, toddlers toddled, young children played, and mothers and older siblings corralled them as the return time dragged well past 10 p.m.

“It’s been a long 15 months,” said 12-year-old Matthew Sharp, who spent much of the night chasing his little brother Nicholas.

Matthew recalled several trips over the past year to Landstuhl, where he visited Staff Sgt. Jesse Hernandez with other Darmstadt community members.

Three months into the deployment, Hernandez was seriously injured in an attack that killed a soldier from another unit and led to the abduction and murder of four other soldiers. None of those four were in Hernandez’s unit.

“It really did go through my head a lot that it could have been my dad that was killed,” the teen said.

But on Thursday, Sharp wasn’t dwelling on that disturbing thought anymore. Instead, he looked forward to hanging out with his dad.

Hernandez, who still has a piece of shrapnel lodged near his spine, was in the gym on Cambrai-Fritsch Kaserne to greet his platoon buddies.

“They haven’t seen me since it happened,” he said.

Moments later, 37 members of 3rd Platoon marched into the venue.

“The best feeling after 15 months is just being able to be back with my family,” Sgt. 1st Class Michael P. King said moments after strolling in, in as reserved a manner as he could muster toward his wife, his 3-year-old daughter, Mykayla, and his 15-month-old son, Isaac.

“It doesn’t feel like we’ve been gone 15 months,” King said. However, seeing his curly-haired son, who was 3 weeks old when he left, “makes it all seem real.”


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