National Guard soldiers return following year-long deployment

Hundreds of Hawaii Army National Guard soldiers are scheduled to arrive in Hawaii Wednesday night following a yearlong deployment to the Middle East — but they won’t get the typical homecoming due to COVID-19 concerns.

Three hundred members of the 1st Battalion, 487th Field Artillery Regiment, also known as the “Hiki No” battalion, returned to Hawaii via a chartered flight from Fort Bliss in Texas Wednesday evening, said Brig. Gen. Moses Kaoiwi Jr. Their homecoming follows a year-long deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The soldiers will be were reunited with ohana at a National Guard facility, but not in the typical fashion, Kaoiwi said.

“Only two members from each soldier‘s family will be allowed to attend the event and they will not leave their cars. There will be no marching; no formations; no lei giving and no hugs or kisses,” Kaoiwi said during the state’s daily COVID-19 briefing streamed online. “This will be the most physically distanced reunion ceremony in our history. It’s not ideal, but it is necessary.”

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