WASHINGTON - The 273rd D.C. Army National Guard military police battalion received a hero's welcome at the D.C. Armory Sunday afternoon, after a 10-month deployment managing operations at the U.S. Air Base in Bagram, Afghanistan.
Sgt. Lawrence Keyes, from D.C., stepped off of his van, took a few steps, dropped his bags and braced himself as his wife Leslie leaped into his arms.
"It was a really good feeling. Everything was okay as soon as he got off the bus," says Leslie.
Keyes let out a hearty shout of "D.C!" Then, after getting more hugs from family and receiving a red carpet salute from his comrades, Keyes took a minute to let the moment sink in.
"It was the best feeling going," he says.
"To see my mama, see my wife, my brother-in-law, my dad."
Barbara Jackson, his mom, was thankful her son returned healthy and safe.
"He left his family and five kids behind," says Jackson.
"What a sacrifice he's laid down for his country, and for his family, and I'm so very proud of him."
Keyes left the Armory in his sport-utility-vehicle leading a convoy of motorcycle riders.
He'll head home to reunite with his five children and to meet his 5-month-old grandson for the first time.
Members of the unit flew into Dulles and Reagan airports. They arrived at the Armory in one green and one blue utility van and a white school bus.
Among their duties the 273rd managed a dining facility, conducted logistics and personnel convoys and provided security detail for American personnel.
Spc. Antevia Ervin's welcoming committee included her mom and sister. Ervin was greeted with a large, yellow sign that read "Welcome Home 273rd Comp. Law Dawgs!" and her favorite doll.
Ervin was overcome with emotion reflecting on her time away from family.
"I haven't seen my mom and sister in like over a year," says Ervin, holding back tears.
"I'm happy to be home."
The Chicago native says she'll be spending her time watching action movies.
Sgt. Evette Jones was a medic for the battalion on the base.
She's had two things on her mind since hitting U.S. soil. One is her daughter.
"She's in Massachusetts right now. She's been staying with her father while I've been gone. She doesn't know I'm back, so I'm going to surprise her at her school," says Jones.
The second: a rack of ribs.
"Even if they taste bad, they'll be the best ribs I've ever had," she says.
"Because, they'll be D.C. ribs."
The unit is in what's called a reset, which means they'll be allowed to stay home for the next three years.
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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)
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