WEST COLUMBIA, S.C. — Sgt. William Miles got new marching orders from his 3-year-old son and wife on Tuesday as he returned to South Carolina after nine months in Kosovo with his Army National Guard military police unit.
“Sgt. Miles Report for Daddy Duty,” and “Sgt. Miles Next Mission Kiss Me,” said posters they waved as they rushed to embrace their 26-year-old soldier at the unit’s welcoming ceremony.
“It feels good to be home,” said Miles, as he wiped tears from his cheeks and embraced them both. “That’s about all I have to say.”
The National Guardsman was one of about 400 soldiers who returned home during five ceremonies held across the state.
The men and women deployed last August with the 218th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade and worked as part of a multi-national security force to help keep the peace in the Balkan nation of Kosovo.
U.S. Guardsmen have served for years in a peacekeeping role, established in the wake of the Balkans war that lasted through the 1990s when the former Yugoslavia broke apart.
“We have a very supportive family,” said Miles’ 24-year-old wife, Holly. She said the Kosovo deployment was made a bit easier since they were able to connect via computer camera programs. Miles also deployed for a year to Iraq several years ago, which was a more difficult time, his wife said.
The Guard sponsored gatherings for families and friends for the soldiers in other armories located in Charleston, Union, Gaffney and Conway.
Lt. Col. Stan O’Neal, battalion commander of the 51st Military Police Battalion, lauded the unit in welcoming remarks.
“They did a remarkable job,” said O’Neal. “You set an excellent example for conducting escorts and security missions.”
O’Neal also thanked friends and family members, pointing out that they had to make adjustments to support the soldiers while they were deployed.
“You supported them, and sacrificed, while they were gone,” O’Neal said.
Guard commander Maj. Gen. Robert Livingston said in a statement that the unit’s work helped to maintain a safe and secure environment in a part of the world filled with ethnic divisions.
“These heroic South Carolinians deployed to Kosovo at a pivotal time and successfully accomplished a critical mission. Their hard work over the past year has helped restore hope and build a culture of peace,” the two-star general said.