Wednesday 28 September 2016

Hero troops get an emotional welcome home

Published 18/05/2015 | 02:30

It was a welcome worthy of world champions as our hero troops touched down in Dublin Airport after a gruelling six-month service in the Middle East.

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Hundreds gathered to welcome their loved ones home from early on Sunday morning, enduring an anxious two-hour wait for the delayed flight.

But their worry was soon lifted as some 181 tanned soldiers started to stream through the arrivals hall doors.

Thunderous applause and cheers echoed through the terminal and tears flowed as children rushed to embrace their mums and dads.

The soldiers had spent half a year as part of the UN peacekeeping patrol trying to calm tensions between Lebanon and Israel.

Tricolours, balloons, and banners made sure that the troops received a welcome to cherish.

Robert Quinn kises his newborn daughter Lexie (seven weeks) and son Bobby (3) on his return home yesterday
Robert Quinn kises his newborn daughter Lexie (seven weeks) and son Bobby (3) on his return home yesterday
Shane Finn from Galway is greeted by his girlfriend Naomi Chui
Michael Power gets a hug from his son Casey (6) to welcome him home yesterday

The battalion deployed last November and had operated on the ground as part of the Finnish/Irish battalion. They were stationed in a post south of the village of Al-Tiri, close to the border between Lebanon and Israel just 30km away from the conflict zone of the Golan Heights.

For little Síofra Gallacher, it was a special homecoming. Clad in her Communion dress, the ecstatic eight-year-old rushed to the arms of her dad Mark in floods of tears as soon as he appeared through the doors.

The emotional youngster made her First Holy Communion in Athlone, Co Westmeath, on Saturday and wanted to be sure her daddy saw her in her dress.

Sgt Mark Gallacher (43), who was returning from his eighth tour abroad, said he was "delighted" to be home.

"How could you not be delighted with a welcome like this," he said. "I have missed first words, first birthdays and first steps, but nothing beats coming home to my five wonderful children," added the Roscommon man.

But it won't be all fun and games for the soldier as his wife Natasha said there is a list of chores for him to do now that he is home.

"The house needs painting, the lawn needs to be mowed and there is plenty of DIY to be done," she joked.

It was another special homecoming for trooper Robert Quinn. The Dubliner was greeted by his seven-week-old daughter Lexie, his son Bobby (3) and partner Catherine O'Keeffe (34).

Catherine said that this is the last tour of duty Robert will be going on for a while. She said: "He only got to spend a few days with Lexie when she was born. He will be staying put until this lot grow up and that's an order."

The Irish detachment was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Kevin McCarthy, who said he was "extremely proud" of his troops after a very successful tour.

"We were extremely concerned after the death of a Spanish peacekeeper in Golan Heights and tensions were high. But our training and professionalism ensured that everything went smoothly."

Their replacements, the 49th Infantry Group, began their rotation to South Lebanon yesterday.

Irish Independent

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