Guard Soldiers Honored

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Sergeants, privates, specialists -- all soldiers in the Michigan Army National Guard.

Forty-seven in all were honored with a medallion, a lapel pin for soldiers and spouses and an American flag. The ceremony took place at guard headquarters in Lansing.

"Each one of those threads (on the flag) represents one of you. The fabric that makes up this great nation," Capt. Brian Bonney, commander of the 263rd, told the guardsmen and women Saturday.

"(It) feels good to know the nation is grateful, the state is grateful for our service," Sgt. Russell Maxwell said.

Their service? Assisting military operations in Iraq from nearby Kuwait. But don't think they were removed from the reality of war.

"I got to see all the reporting of all the soldiers: Hurt, wounded, the ones that were killed. It was kind of difficult seeing all that. But you just learn to adapt," Sgt. Lorenzo Castilla said.

Now that he's back, Castilla is adapting to yet another change: Civilian life. He says a little time at home got him prepare to return to a 9-to-5 job. But Castilla says he couldn't have prepared to see his new baby son.

"He was born while I was overseas... It was kind of hard. Waiting, waiting. It finally came and I was happy," Castilla said.

Now, he says life is approaching normal again. Castilla is back to work. So is Maxwell.

"It's a little different. Not as structured," Maxwell said.

But with such a stark change of scenery, Maxwell says, even the little differences can be tough.

"The weather over there was really hot. Getting back here -- the rain (we've had). It almost never rained over there," he said.

Like the his fellow guardsmen and women in the 263rd, Maxwell has been back from a yearlong tour since November. All 47 members of the 263rd arrived back from Kuwait without any major injuries.

Unlike the rest of them, Maxwell won't be home for long.

"Our sister unit, the 363rd Personnel Services Detachment, is going back and I'm going back with them," Maxwell said.

Back to the Middle East -- likely in July. Maxwell says he found out Friday. He's a little anxious, he says, but happy to do his part.

"My expertise and the knowledge I gained over there will help the people out going back over there. Kind of excited, but not excited. If you can understand that," Maxwell said.

A soldier's mindset -- a mindset these guardsmen and women were reminded of as they were honored for their service.

"You are what makes this country great. You are the American soldier. You are the guard," a guard colonel told the soldiers.