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NJ troops welcomed home from Iraq

June 12, 2009 2:37:44 PM PDT
Little Jewel Moore thought her daddy lived inside the computer. That's because since she was 3 months old, he did. Now the 15-month-old toddler is trying to get used to the dad who lives inside her home, Lt. Col. James Moore.

And Moore, one of the 2,900 New Jersey National Guard soldiers back from Iraq after a one-year deployment, is trying to get used to the little person his baby has become and the toll his absence has had on his Jewel's older sister, Jasmine, who was 3 years old when her dad left for Baghdad.

Both children have seen him nearly every day through a Web cam, but it's not the same.

"The little one, she wasn't even walking. Now she's a totally different person," he said.

"I thought it wouldn't affect her much at the time, but I was truly surprised by Jasmine's level of emotion," he said. "That made it very hard. Even being back, she's still somewhat adjusting."

Moore's absence had an effect on his wife as well, who was left to take care of the children while working full-time. The couple moved to New Jersey from Maryland in 2006 and has no immediate family here.

"Do you want the polite answer or the truth?" is Pia Moore's reply when asked about her life over the past year.

"It was hard with a newborn who was up for hours each night. It was an adjustment," she said.

Many other National Guard families are experiencing the same adjustment. Soldiers from the 50th Infantry Brigade Combat Team have been returning home since Memorial Day weekend. There were no casualties among the 2,900 - nearly half's of the state's total guard unit and the largest deployment of New Jersey National Guard troops to a combat zone since World War II.

Soldiers were greeted with cheers Friday as they marched through the streets of the state capital in a welcome home parade. A 19-gun salute signaled the start of a parade through downtown Trenton.

In front of the newly finished World War II memorial outside the Statehouse, soldiers were greeted by Gov. Jon S. Corzine and Maj. Gen. Glenn Rieth, who told them the state would never forget their service or needs going forward.

"We'll make sure your transition back is as successful as your service to us has been," Corzine said.

The parade ended at Sovereign Bank Arena where guardsmen were treated to a USO show that included performances by comedian Joe Piscopo of "Saturday Night Live" fame and other local entertainers.

"You are the blessing in 'God Bless America,"' Newark Mayor Cory Booker told the troops at the arena. "We welcome you home and tell you that you are not home alone."

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