KALISPELL (AP) - More than 100 Army National Guard soldiers received a raucous homecoming Thursday from a crowd that lined Main Street to welcome them back after more than a year in Iraq.
Members of the 639th Quartermaster Company landed about noon to find dozens of waiting relatives who quickly surged past barriers to embrace the troops.
Twenty-one Guard members from the Havre and Chinook detachments of the 443rd Petroleum, Oil and Lubricants Supply Company, based in Billings, were called up to fill vacancies in the Kalispell 639th Quartermaster Campany when the company was activated at the end of 2003.
''It's a great feeling of relief and satisfaction that the soldiers did their job,'' said Bruce Cusker, who waited to meet his son, 1st Lt. Chris Cusker. ''I'm very proud of him.''
Other returning troops included Spc. Richard Brant of Libby and Spc. Amber Brester of Laurel who said they fell in love during their deployment and were waiting to visit with Brester's father before setting engagement plans. The two said they'll live in Libby where Brant works at a grocery store and Brester plans to attend college.
''There are a lot of great things going on over there,'' Brant said of Iraq. ''You don't see all the people who think it's a good thing that we're over there.''
Another soldier, Sgt. 1st Class Mark Roedel of Kalispell, said he was thinking of two such people, Ali and Kaussen, who put on a dinner every Friday for the soldiers.
About an hour after soldiers' arrival, firetrucks came to the airport gate for the parade's start. A Chinook helicopter flew low over the parade route as organizer John Gisselbrecht videotaped the procession from above.
''It looked like ants coming from everywhere to the parade route,'' he said.
The procession ended at the Flathead County Fairgrounds where a high school band played as soldiers and their families helped themselves to food donated by several restaurants. A short ceremony featured a welcome speech by Kalispell Mayor Pam Kennedy.
''We will never ever be able to tell you how very proud we are of you,'' Kennedy said.