- Associated Press - Friday, July 14, 2017

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Tears, cheers, hugs and applause from hundreds of people have warmed the welcome home for Nebraska Army National Guard members who just returned from a challenging deployment in Iraq.

About 90 members of the 1st Infantry Division Main Command Post-Operational Detachment arrived in Lincoln on Thursday after their nine-month mission. Families, friends and other well-wishers showed up at Haymarket Park to mark the soldiers’ safe return.

“Thank you for the courage to stand up for your country” and for your “willingness to put yourself in a position of danger to fight our enemies,” said Gov. Pete Ricketts.

During their employment, the soldiers spearheaded a new type of unit that integrated into a division headquarters to augment in its staff. Experts in areas such as legal affairs, artillery, aviation and a variety of other field were assigned to the detachment.

The unit was formed in spring 2016 and was mobilized in August.

Sgt. Maj. Jeremy Preister said the largest of the Lincoln-based unit’s Iraqi operations was aiding in the liberation of Mosul from the Islamic State, which as of Monday has been recaptured.

“It was really the Iraqi partners liberating Mosul, but our forces helped them along the way in giving them what they needed,” he said.

Sabrina Cowsky, of Ashland, turned out with her 9-year-old and 4-year-old sons to welcome their dad, Staff Sgt. Josh Cowsky, who served as a geospatial intelligence analyst.

“It’s the best day ever for them,” she said. “There’s so much excitement and tears. They’re so glad Daddy’s back.”

Josh Cowsky said that he was grateful for the homecoming.

“On days like today, I always think of the guys who didn’t get this, like in Vietnam,” he said. “I appreciate that a lot.”

Maj. Gen. Daryl Bohac expressed his pride in the detachment.

“Ninety left and 90 came home,” he said. “That’s a pretty good day.”

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