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Southwest Iowa Soldiers Return After Serving In Afghanistan

SHENANDOAH— Shortly after being dismissed to go see family, Scott Kester first went to see Brenda Maher, the wife of Sgt. Brent Maher.
    Kester wanted to offer his condolences, more formally, to Maher’s wife.

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    “I wanted to make sure she could get a hold of me if she wanted,” Kester said.
    Kester was friends with Brent Maher during their tour of duty in Afghanistan. Maher, 31, of Council Bluffs, died April 11 in the Paktia province of Afghanistan when a vehicle he was in ran over a roadside bomb.
    “He was actually the one person I talked to a lot, to help me get through issues,” Kester said. “It was rough, definitely hat day and it’s just horrible that they got us the way they did.”
    The Bravo Company of the 168th Iowa Army National Guard returned home last Tuesday. The bus pulled up to Shenandoah High School, where a “Welcome Home” ceremony was held. Several dignitaries spoke at the ceremony, offering their appreciation for the soldiers’ service to their country. The ceremony lasted about 20 minutes, with more than 100 in attendance. Before reaching the high school, the bus carrying Bravo Company drove through Shenandoah.
    The soldiers entered the gymnasium to loud cheers and Thin Lizzy’s The Boys Are Back in Town.
    Felicia Hemphill of Emerson said she was looking forward to seeing her 6-year-old son. It was Hemphill’s first tour of active duty.
    “It was really tough, I wanted to be there for the first day of Kindergarten and all that, but I wasn’t able,” Hemphill said. “I got pictures and I was able to Skype him.”
    Hemphill’s brother, Austin, who also returned home from Afghanistan, looks forward to seeing his nephew and driving his 2005 Ford Mustang, which he bought during his deployment.
    “I’m just going to go and hang out with friends,” Austin Hemphill said after the ceremony.
    Several soldiers said they stayed in contact through social media like Facebook and Skype.
    “Phone and internet pretty much is about all I could do,” Kester said. “I didn’t really write a whole lot because mail process is a bit of a pain over there.”
    Kester and the Hemphills were among several Mills County soldiers returning home with Company B. Anthony Webster (Glenwood), Mike Brammer (Glenwood), Sean Kensley (Glenwood), Anthony Chase (Glenwood) and Kerick Moyers (Emerson) were some of the others.
    Homecomings for National Guard soldiers have been held in several other southwest Iowa communities over the past two weeks, including Council Bluffs and Red Oak.