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For military families with loved ones serving in Iraq, this holiday season comes with varying degrees of relief and anxiety, as the nine-year war in Iraq winds down and deployments come to an end. Members of the Kentucky National Guard, deployed nearly six months ago, are beginning to come home from Iraq.

Brenna Angel, from member station WUKY, has the story of one soldier who has mixed emotions about his desire to serve and the toll it takes on his family.

BRENNA ANGEL, BYLINE: Earlier this month members of the Kentucky National Guard's 198th Military Police Battalion were welcomed home to Louisville after a brief tour in Iraq. They were part of a larger brigade of soldiers deployed this summer to carry out the drawdown.

LIEUTENANT COLONEL SHONTELLE ADAMS: For us, the mission was great. It was a great opportunity for the soldiers to do a once in a lifetime type mission that we, you know, we'll probably never ever be able to do again, in transitioning a base from the Department of Defense over to the Department of State.

ANGEL: Lieutenant Colonel Shontelle Adams is commander of the 198th. This last deployment to Iraq was only about two and a half months for Adams, who has served overseas three other times during his military career. Those missions typically lasted 12 to 15 months.

ADAMS: This is a volunteer army so a lot of times we know what we're getting into when you raise your right hand to join. But at the same token, many of us when you do that, you know, we were young and single, and didn't have kids and families. And it's - I'm not going to tell you it's easy. Whether you've got young kids or in my case, you know, I've got a 19, 16, and a 13-year-old, and it's a little rough.

ANGEL: Adams says technology makes it a lot easier for troops to communicate with loved ones. He didn't have Skype or Gmail 20 years ago while serving in the Persian Gulf War. But even video is no replacement for being able to physically give someone a hug, and Adams is glad to be home.

ADAMS: You know, in the back of your mind though, you're always thinking about your friends and other family who are still overseas, and wishing that they were here being able to enjoy and do the same things that you're doing. But it's just a good feeling to know that you're home.

All of my soldiers are, you know, that were with me are safe and sound back with their families. And it's, you know, not only is it a relief, but it's just a feeling that you just can't explain.

ANGEL: Lieutenant Colonel Shontelle Adams spent Thanksgiving like most Americans, eating turkey and pie. Hundreds of other Kentucky National Guardsmen are still in Iraq, and actually had their traditional dinner last Sunday. It was the final hot meal served at the Camp Liberty dining hall before shutting down.

For NPR News, I'm Brenna Angel.


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