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Monday 23 September 2019

'His next mission is to get married!' - Emotional scenes as Irish troops return from Syria

Amy Molloy and Kyran O'Brien

Irish peacekeepers had to hold on a day longer before being reunited with their loved ones after an unfortunate delay - but for the 130 troops it was well worth the wait.

Emotional scenes unfolded at Casement Aerodrome in Baldonnell as the 55th Infantry Group returned home from a six-month tour of duty in the Golan Heights in Syria.

Children, partners, parents and siblings waited excitedly for their arrival, with many holding homemade banners aloft.

Sisters Lauren and Ava Phelan went all out and wore t-shirts with their dad’s picture printed on them.

“We can’t wait to see our daddy,” they said.

While many troops will be spending the next few weeks relaxing, Kevin Foley will be busy getting ready for his wedding day on November 2.

The Dublin man had tears in his eyes as his fiance Mary Claire McEvoy greeted him with a sign saying “Your next mission awaits...can we get married now?"

“I’m over the moon, I’m just delighted,” he said.

“It's an unbelievable feeling coming home.”

Alan Smith, from Glendalough in Co Wicklow, described the atmosphere on the plane as they touched down on Irish soil.

“There was big roars on the airplane, everyone was ecstatic to arrive back. Most of the lads were on their first trip so it’s great to be home.

“My one-year-old daughter started walking while I was gone, she is running around the house now. She has grown up a lot in the last six months. I’m going to have to spend a bit of time getting to know her again”.

Joe Foyle, from Laois, arrived home to his two four-month-old twins.

His partner Deirdre held one in each arm as she eagerly anticipated his arrival.

“The hard work starts now with these two,” Joe said, before Deirdre quipped “That’s what he thinks...they’re actually sleeping at night now so the hard work is all done!”

A technical fault with the airplane meant the troops return was delayed by a day.

The Infantry Group rotated into the mission area in April and has a wide range of capabilities including armoured force protection, patrolling, surveillance and medical and operational expertise.

The youngest member of the group is Pte Dale Lawler who is 22-years-old. The average age of the group is 32.

For 48 members, it was their first overseas tour and there is an accumulation of 208 tours in total.

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