CHAMPAIGN – About 30 National Guard soldiers from the Champaign Armory will be among those returning from the front line in Iraq as early as next week.
No date has been set for the return of the soldiers from Company B of the 634th Forward Support Battalion, who have been serving with Company A of the same battalion, which has its headquarters in Mattoon.
At this point, the return appears to be between Sept. 28 and Oct. 5 and will take place in Mattoon, said Lt. Col. Lori Strode, who commands the Company B Armory in Champaign.
"There's a lot of excitement around here, but it's kind of hard to plan anything specific," she added.
Shannon Nall of Arcola is the Family Readiness Group Coordinator for the units. She said that despite the lack of a firm date, planning for a welcome ceremony in Mattoon is in full swing.
"We're working to be ready the minute we hear they're coming," said Nall, whose husband, Staff Sgt. Samuel Nall, is returning with the unit after more than a year of being apart from her.
Strode said Champaign will have its own ceremony, but probably not until around Veterans Day, with the support of local veterans groups.
The companies, totaling 156 soldiers, were deployed in July 2006, first sent for additional training at Fort Dix, N.J.
Strode said the troops, whose hometowns range all over the state, have had the primary purpose of protecting other soldiers in Iraq.
"It's really great to have them back," said Nall, who promised a major welcome.