Commandant, Donal Burke (Officer) from Naas with his wife Michelle and 13 month old son, Sean
After a delayed flight on Wednesday evening (October 4) and a two hour wait this morning (October 5), families were finally reunited with troops returning from Syria.
More than 100 troops from the 55th Infantry Group were serving in Golan Heights, Syria for the last six months.
“Welcome home” banners and Irish flags were aplenty as families waited in anticipation to see loved ones at the Casement Aerodrome in Baldonnel Co. Dublin.
Family and friends waiting for the troops to return
There were emotional scenes as the peacekeepers were given a heroes homecoming by friends and families at the gates.
This was Commandant, Donal Burke (Officer) from Naas’ first time away from his 13 month old son, Sean.
“It was tough, this is the hardest part,” he said as he smiled at his wife Michelle.
“This is my fifth tour of duty, and this is my first time with Sean, so it was very tough for both Michelle and myself.
“It’s probably the hardest on his mam, we have a mission, a job to do that gives us a focus, but it’s Michelle that has to look after everything at home.”
Commandant Burke added that it was challenging being in Golan Heights.
“It was a long six months, very busy. We were on call throughout our tour of duty, so looking forward to a bit of downtime.”
His wife Michelle said it was daunting sending her husband off.
“At the beginning yes, before he went probably was the hardest part but delighted to have them home now.”
Private Stephen Duffy from Carbury had a hero’s welcome home from his wife Maria, and two young kids Tadhg and Rian.
Private Stephen Duffy from Carbury with his wife Maria, and their two kids, Tadhg and Rian
Private Duffy said it was a challenging time being away.
“It was at times, the best thing about being home is not being out there”, he laughed. “And the family”, he added.
His wife Maria said it’s fantastic to have Stephen home.
“We really missed him a lot. It’s tough, worrying about him as well of course, so it’s great to have hime home safe and sound.”
It was a long wait for Sergeant Major John Murray’s family from Newbridge as he was one of the last to emerge.
Sergeant Major John Murray with his daughter Elaine and wife Mary
Sergeant Major Murray has been serving in the Army for many years, so is no stranger to trips away.
“Went very quick, busy trip, but with me being the senior guy working with young lads, it was an interesting challenge.
“You never really get used to it becasue the missions change and then as you get older you’re dealing with another generation so I’m on mars, they’re from the moon.
“Because I was Sergeant Major over the group, there was a lot of responsibility to look after young lads to make sure they had a good trip as well.
“Happy to be home, supported by my wife and daughter. I wouldn’t be there unless they supported me so it makes it easier to be out there.”
His wife, Mary, is used to her husband heading off on missions.
John and Mary Murray from Newbridge back in the old days!
“Terrific to have him back on ground, bit of a long wait but we’re kinda feeling this may be the last tour away so it’s bitter sweet but lovely to have him home.
“It never gets easier but you just adapt to the situation but it’s just teriffic to have him home safe.”
William Doyle from Tinahely in Co. Wicklow returned home on his mother Catherine’s birthday (who is originally a Kildare woman), so it was a double celebration for the family.
William Doyle with his mother Catherine and father Andy
“Good trip overall, and a good summer.”
William added that the hardest part of being away was family, friends and football (he plays for Coolkenno GAA).
His mother Catherine was beaming.
“Feeling great, we’re delighted. It’s my birthday today so a double celebration.”
Their replacements, the 56th Infantry Group, completed their deployment to the Golan Heights on October 3.