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Welcoming crowds at Sonoma County airport greet soldiers' return from Afghanistan

  • Troy Tsuji, right, hugs his mother-in-law, Jacqueline Guerra, as his wife, Ana Tsuji, watches as he returns from duty in Afghanistan at the Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport in Santa Rosa on Sunday, January 20, 2013. (Christopher Chung/ The Press Democrat)

Nine American soldiers who spent much of the past year building bridges in Afghanistan stepped onto the tarmac Sunday at the Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport.

Arriving on two flights, the California National Guard members from Santa Rosa, Windsor, Rohnert Park, Cloverdale and Ukiah arrived home to a horde of flag-waving loved ones and a legion of Sonoma County's public-safety workers.

Six soldiers arrived on the 5:30 p.m. flight from Seattle, walked through rows of honor guard at attention and into the arms of family.

Soldiers Come Home To Sonoma County


And while for most it was family members who brought the balloons and gifts, Spc. Troy Tsuji handed his wife a bouquet of flowers he carried from Seattle.

"This is overwhelming," said his wife, Ana, after a tender, rocking hug with her husband.

"I've been waiting for this moment," said Sgt. Albert Manfredini, 34, of Ukiah, his arms around his wife, Erica.

"It's the best feeling in the world," said Sgt. 1st Class Jessamyn Sobecki-Engle of Cloverdale, surrounded by her family.

The soldiers, including three of their peers who arrived on a 9:08 p.m. flight from Los Angeles, belong to the Redding-based company of the Guard's 579th Engineer Battalion, headquartered in Santa Rosa.

They returned from Helmand Province, where they repaired and built bridges and ran convoy security missions.

In addition to Tsuji, Manfredini and Sobecki-Engle, those returning Sunday included Spc. Cody Abercrombie of Santa Rosa, Spc. Aaron Adams of Cotati, Spc. Miguel Correa of Windsor, Spc. Richard McKee of Rohnert Park, Spc. Michael Snider of Ukiah and Spc. Michael Sramek of Santa Rosa.

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