HANOVER TWP. — They weren’t just soldiers.
They were sons and daughters, husbands and wives, mothers and fathers. And many hadn’t seen home — or their loved ones — in nearly a year.
That changed Friday as nearly 100 members of the 361st Military Police Company returned to the Army Reserve Center in Hanover Township after a short bus ride from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport.
Two tour buses, led by a motorcade of cars and motorcycles, arrived to the reserve center amid vigorous fanfare, following a two-week debriefing at Fort Bliss in Texas and, before that, a nine month mission in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Many of the soldiers served as corrections officers and guarded some of the U.S. military prison’s most dangerous detainees, a far cry from the dozens of families and friends waving American flags and “welcome home” signs.
The soldiers’ return preceded a brief change of command ceremony in which outgoing commander Capt. John P. Smith turned the unit over to First Lt. Krystin J. Johnson.
Smith said the detention facility was “unlike any other that any of these soldiers have seen,” but that they performed the mission flawlessly.
Among those seeing their family members for the first time in months, Pittston Township native and U.S. Army Specialist Kevin Suchecki was reunited with his parents, sister, and other family and friends.
Deployed since Sept. 2, Suchecki, 27, a Bloomsburg University graduate who majored in criminal justice, said he valued the show of support upon arriving.
“I’m glad people showed up. It’s really cool they took the time out of their day to do that,” Suchecki said.
Ahead of a 90-day off period, Suchecki said he’s got a lot of catching up to do, including seeing his nephew, Connor, for the first time.
But mostly, he’s looking forward to the little things.
“Just staying at home for a couple days,” he said. “Have my mom cook for me. Sleep in.”
An outdoorsman, Suchecki said he’s also looking forward to hunting and fishing with his dad, Ed Suchecki.
Ed Suchecki said he was caught off guard after he found out his son wanted to join the reserves but knew he had it in him.
“He loved our country,” Ed Suchecki said. “I knew he always wanted to do something good. He wanted to do this country proud.”
“And we’re all proud of him for it,” he added.
Kevin Suchecki said he wished he would have joined the reserves sooner. But ultimately, he wanted to serve the nation.
“I just wanted to play my part,” he said.
Home again for the first time in months, Suchecki isn’t sticking around on U.S. soil for long.
In October, he’ll spend a month in Poland seeking out his roots.
“I’ve got different trips planned. Different cities,” he said. “It’s the perfect time.”
Reach Joe Dolinsky at 570-991-6110 or on Twitter @JoeDolinskyTL