The 226th Engineering Company is home.

The 226th Engineering Company is home.

After a deployment to serve in Afghanistan, the Kansas National Guard’s 226th Engineering Company arrived home safely on Thursday to find family waiting for them. The roughly 170 soldiers were deployed in December 2009 for a year-long mission.

The soldiers flew into Salina on Thursday, and a small ceremony was held there to welcome the troops home.

“This is the best Christmas present we could ever give to the families of these fine soldiers,” said Maj. Gen. Tod Bunting, the adjutant general. “They did a superb job in Afghanistan and now they deserve some quality family time.”

That’s what most of the soldiers found waiting for them in Salina. A vast majority of the soldiers had family in Salina waiting to pick them up. But after the cermony, about five soldiers took a van from Salina to Pittsburg.

Among those waiting in Pittsburg was Debra Dohle, wife of Sgt. 1st Class Marian Dohle, an Arcadia resident who received the Bronze Star while in Afghanistan.

“Everything is going through my mind,” Debra Dohle said before her husband arrived. “I just want to make sure they’re all OK. I want to make sure they all had a safe trip and good flights. I’m just glad they all made it home.”

Upon her husband’s arrival, the Dohles hugged and kissed. Even while greeting other friends and family, Debra still held onto her husband’s hand.

Spc. Lewis Sexton, Baxter Springs, left Pittsburg to go home and see his son, 16, and daughter, 7. He said it’ll be strange getting back to normal.

“There’s going to be an adjustment period,” Sexton said. “I’m sure it’s going to set in eventually. It’s hard for some of us, because we’re now used to being around our buddies 24 hours.”

While in Afghanistan, the 226th Engineering Company constructed, repaired and maintained veritcal infrastructure, including base camps and facilities for other units deployed in the country.

This was both Sexton and Dohle’s second deployment, which they said made the year go by a little easier.

Dohle said that he and his wife would have to spend some time getting to know each other a little bit after a year apart.

“We’ll just take time to enjoy him being home,” Debra Dohle said. “He’s my Christmas present.”

Andrew Nash can be reached at andrew.nash@morningsun.net or by calling 231-2600 ext. 132.