Troops return home to family and friends

Sgt. Ryan Croft, a member of the Virginia National Guard 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment based in Woodstock, hugs his wife, Christine in July after they were reunited following his deployment in Qatar. Rich Cooley/Daily

WOODSTOCK – More than 50 National Guard soldiers from around the area were welcomed back home Tuesday night by family and friends at the National Guard Armory in Woodstock.

As their buses arrived, they drove under a flag hanging from two fire trucks as their loved ones waved, cheered and held up handmade signs welcoming back home to the Woodstock Armory Company B, third battalion, 116th regiment of the Infantry Brigade Combat Team.

Nathan Taylor, 22, of New Market, with the sniper unit in the Woodstock Army National Guard, was among them. His mother, Teresa Taylor, of New Market, said her son was deployed to the Middle Eastern country of Qatar on Sept. 7, 2015, and added that this was his first deployment overseas.

She said she was nervous about his deployment, but that he had always wanted to be a part of the military.

“Nathan was determined that he wanted to do it,” she said. “We supported him in this deployment because we knew that’s what he wanted to do, and of course I missed him greatly, but I was relieved because that group is so close and they really took good care of each other, so that made me feel relief knowing he had a military family that looked after him as well.”

Woodstock and Strasburg Fire Departments used their ladder trucks to hang a large American flag at the entrance to the Virginia National Guard Armory in Woodstock on Tuesday evening as members of the 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment returned after their deployment to Qatar. Rich Cooley/Daily

She said she has decorated their house for his arrival and will celebrate his return with family and friends.

“I want to thank the community for being so supportive during this time,” she added.

Also returning home was Jeremie VanCleave, 25, of Stafford. This was his first deployment with the Guard, and he served as security.

He said his time overseas was “not what I expected,” as he battled triple digit temperatures in full military gear.

Staff Sgt. Chad Lebo said these troops were stationed in Qatar as force security. Those deployed were between 18 and 57 years old, with both first-time deployed soldiers and veterans.

Virginia National Guard members of the 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment based in Woodstock stand in formation as they exited the bus following their recent deployment from Qatar. Rich Cooley/Daily

He said those returning were “ready to be home” after almost a year overseas.

Also on site was the American Red Cross to help families of deployed soldiers, including Leslie Caliva, community volunteer leader for the American Red Cross’s Winchester area office.

“We’re here to support both our active duty military, our veterans, in whatever way we possibly can,” she said. “… We’re here and we’re going to continue to be here for them when they come back to their regular Guard duties.”

She added that the American Red Cross is working year-round “during both peacetime and wartime.”

Also returning home were Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment and Company F, and the 429th Brigade Support Battalion, all based in Winchester.

Photographer Rich Cooley took first place in the features category of the Readers' Choice Contest with this photo of Sgt. 1st Class Steve Greene, a member of the Virginia National Guard, 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, holding his daughter Gloria, 2, as they leave the armory headquarters in July 2016 following his return from deployment in Qatar. Rich Cooley/Daily

According to a Virginia National Guard news release, these soldiers have been serving on federal active duty since September 2015.

“More than 450 soldiers from units based in Winchester, Woodstock, Leesburg and Suffolk provided security for installations in the U.S. Army’s Central Command area of operations in Qatar with just 90 days notice for the mission,” the release added.

“Since Sept. 11, 2001, more than 15,000 Virginia Guard Soldiers and Airmen have mobilized on federal active duty for homeland security missions and combat operations, sustainment support and peacekeeping in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo and other locations around the world. There are currently more than 700 soldiers and airmen deployed in the Middle East and Cuba conducting security operations, providing engineer support and conducting other missions,” it added.

Contact staff writer Kaley Toy at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or