Break out the fresh yellow ribbons.
On Monday, the Storm Lake Armory was given word to begin planning a homecoming celebration for the 43 local soldiers who shipped out for deployment to Kosovo on July 17 of last year.
They have been tentatively scheduled to arrive back in Storm Lake between July 8 and 16.
According to Sgt. Roger Indeldue of the local Iowa National Guard unit, it has been a long year for both the soldiers and their families.
"These guys have not been in serious combat zones, so we haven't had those kind of issues, but I can tell you that they are chomping at the bit to get home to their families," Ingeldue said. "Here at home, the local Family Readiness Group has been working with the families, and they have been a tremendous help to get through this situation."
Local Guard officials hope to obtain the Storm Lake High School gym for a community welcome-home ceremony, as was done earlier for a local group of soldiers that spent over a year in Iraq.
Initially, there was to be no ceremony, since the 1st Battalion, 194th Field Artillery, troops are composed of units from Fort Dodge, Estherville, Algona and Storm Lake.
They were to arrive in Waterloo as a unit and then split up.
"On Monday I got the call to begin planning because everybody would now be coming back here as a group. All of the soldiers who left from Storm Lake will come back to Storm Lake together," Ingeldue said.
The ceremony will feature military and political dignitaries and serve as a way to thank the men and their families for their sacrifices. For some of the participants, this has been their second of third lengthy deployment in the past few years.
"The families are getting excited," Ingeldue said of the return. "It's always hardest on the children, I think."
Guard units from Indiana are preparing to relieve the Iowans within the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Kosovo, locked in a civil power struggle.
Local Guard officials declined to discuss the possibility of additional deployments for the Storm Lake Guard unit, but Ingeldue said that there is an "excellent possibility" that the local soldiers will be called again for overseas service.
"Unfortunately, the numbers we have with the active Army is not enough to support missions, whether it is in Afghanistan or Iraq, or any other place where we may be needed in the world," he said.
Iowa Governor Chet Culver maid an unannounced visit to Kosovo earlier this month to visit the Iowa troops in the former Yugoslav republic. More Iowans are currently serving there than anyplace except Iraq.
The troops he met with reportedly told Culver they were in good spirits and succeeding in maintaining order in the once war-torn region.
"This is a historic time with Kosovo declaring its independence on Feb. 17, and it has suddenly become an even more important region," Culver said in a conference call. "And it appears that things are going very well."