Tears of joy as troops return home from Lebanon
AN impromptu guard of honour welcomed the 42nd Infantry through the doors of Dublin Airport after their six-month stint in Lebanon.
Emotions ran high as the 175 tanned troops arrived back on home turf to a boisterous welcome from families and friends.
As piper Sgt Joseph Meade from the 7th Infantry Battalion played his bagpipes to welcome the troops home, loved ones formed an impromptu guard of honour at the arrivals hall.
Couples passionately embraced and children wielding Tricolours and handmade banners and posters couldn't contain their joy as they made a beeline into the arms of their much-missed fathers and mothers.
For Sgt Livinia Connell (39) from Athlone, Co Westmeath, it was a particularly emotional reunion with her five-year-old son John, whom she has seen only at Christmas and Easter over the past six months.
"It was very tough but it's part of my job, it's part of my contract, but it was an enjoyable trip," she said, with tears welling in her eyes as she snatched her adoring son into her arms.
"Still it's great to be home," she said, smothering him with kisses.
For Corporal Ian Woods (30), from Dundalk, it was also a joyful reunion as he embraced his wife Joanne (31) and their children James (10) and Emily (4) and newborn son Mason (six weeks).
Pte Jamie Carroll from Cork was also overjoyed to be reunited with his daughter Abbey, 16 months, and his fiancee Tanya Kavanagh.
It was his first tour of duty and he was a bit taken aback by the rock-star reception he and his colleagues received at the airport.
"It was my first time so I didn't know what to expect," he said, looking a bit shell-shocked by the commotion.
The UNIFIL peacekeeping contingent, led by Lt Col Ray Yorke from Co Longford, hail from 22 counties on both sides of the Border, with the bulk of soldiers from counties Dublin and Louth.
Among them were three seasoned veterans who have a combined 37 overseas missions under their belts.
Also in the contingent were two All-Ireland boxing champions and a former All-Star GAA champion.