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Two military units get warm tributes on return to Maine

Troops honored in Saco, Augusta

SACO, Maine -- Members of two Maine military units that served in Iraq were honored in separate homecoming ceremonies during the weekend.

Members of the 94th US Army Reserve Military Police Company gathered yesterday for a tribute at Thornton Academy. The unit returned home earlier this month, 20 months after being deployed in December 2002.

Among those at the ceremony was Army Reserve Sergeant Curtis Mills, who was wounded last September when a bomb rocked his Humvee in an ambush in Iraq.

Mills, who works as a mail carrier in Sanford, underwent surgeries for multiple shrapnel wounds along the right side of his body and spent nearly 11 months in rehabilitation at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington.

The 94th is based in Londonderry, N.H., and has a Maine-based detachment in Saco. Members also come from Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

In Augusta, members of an Army National Guard unit were honored Saturday with words of encouragement, American flags, plaques, coins, lapel pins, and certificates for their work in Iraq.

More than 200 people filled the Augusta State Armory to pay tribute to the 28 soldiers from the guard's 133rd Engineer Battalion, who returned to the United States in June after more than a year of service.

Brigadier General John ''Bill" Libby, Maine National Guard commander and a Vietnam War veteran, told the soldiers that adjusting to civilian life will take time. He urged them to look forward and enjoy the time with their families.

''It will take years to transition," Libby said.

The 28 men and women were deployed in May 2003 separately from the rest of their battalion, to support a combat engineer battalion from Georgia. The units rebuilt roads, public buildings, and infrastructure in Iraq.

US Representative Thomas Allen, a Maine Democrat, said Maine residents appreciate the efforts of American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan even if they disagree with the Bush administration's policies there. He said that when US soldiers returned from Vietnam, they were often associated with the politics of war.

''That hasn't happened this time," Allen said.

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