Thursday 18 January 2018

Hero troops touch down in Dublin Airport after gruelling six-month service in Lebanon

Adam Cullen

Adam Cullen

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

Hundreds gathered to welcome their loved ones home from early the early hours, enduring an anxious two-hour wait after a delayed flight.

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

Thunderous applause and cheers echoed through the terminal and tears flowed as children rushed to embraced 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.

But the devastation of the battlefield was nowhere to be seen in Terminal 1 as squeals of excitement rang out in the airport.

Tricolors, balloons, and banners made sure that our troops  received  a welcome to cherish.

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 war-torn Golan heights. 

For little Síofra Gallacher, it was a special homecoming.  Clad in her communion dress the ecstatic 8-year-old rushed to her father's arms 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 8th 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 Sgt Gallacher, from Ballydangan, Co Roscommon.

But it won’t be all fun and games for the soldier as he wife Natasha has 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, “from one job to another.”

It was another special homecoming for trooper Robert Quinn.

The Dublin man was greeted by his seven-week-old daughter Lexie, his son Bobby (3) and partner Catherine O’Keeffe (34).

The ecstatic family was so eager to welcome Robert home they stood just feet away from the arrival doors.

Catherine said that this is the last tour of duty Robert will be going on for a while and will be ordering him to stay on Irish soil from now on.

She said: “It’s brilliant to have him back safely we all missed him so much, but I don’t think he’ll be going away again for a while.

“He only got to spend a few days with Lexie when she was born.  It has been very difficult with a newborn and a toddler. He will be staying put until this lot grow up and that's an order," she added.

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.

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