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August 31. 2013 8:35PM

NH Guardsmen welcomed home after stint abroad

MANCHESTER - Meaghan Fricke and Amber Barnes were at the front of the crowd at Manchester-Boston Regional Airport on Friday night, ready to greet their husbands as the men returned home after a nearly yearlong deployment to Afghanistan with the New Hampshire Army National Guard.

"There they are," they shouted in unison as Sgt. Erich Fricke and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Derrick Barnes walked down the stairs from the airport gate and into the arms of their wives.

"Pretty good," was how Fricke described his feelings upon returning to New Hampshire after having served as a crew chief for a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter with the 169th Medevac Detachment.

"It's awesome," his wife said. "It'll be nice to get on with our lives."

The Frickes, who live in Brookline, said they plan to spend some of his two months of leave time riding their Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

Barnes, a helicopter pilot, said he is looking forward to spending time with his wife and their two cats at their Deerfield home and getting back to his full-time job helping his father run their McDonald's restaurants in Epping and Raymond.

"It's been awhile. It's about time" he got back home, he said.

The 169th Medevac Detachment left New Hampshire last Sept. 29 for training in Fort Hood, Texas, followed by nine months in Afghanistan.

"It's kind of hard to think of the words, but it's so good to have him home," Amber Barnes said.

Fricke and Barnes were among a group of about 10 Guardsmen who arrived Friday night and early Saturday in two planes. Their plane arrived at 10:30 p.m. Friday, while the other was scheduled to arrive at 11 p.m., but was delayed to 12:20 a.m. Saturday, said Maj. Gen. William N. Reddel.

Reddel, who was at the airport on Thursday when two Guardsmen returned, said he planned to stay at the airport as long as it took overnight Friday to personally shake the hands of each returning soldier.

"They've given up a year of their lives," he said. "The least I can do is be here to greet them."

tbuckland@unionleader.com


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