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40 Members Of The Md. National Guard Honored After Their Return From Afghanistan

HUNT VALLEY, Md. (WJZ)– Saturday marks the official end of the troop surge in Afghanistan. Dozens of members of the Maryland National Guard were honored for their service with a ceremony in Hunt Valley.

Monique Griego has more on why it brought mixed emotions for one family.

Major Robert Marchanti was killed in Afghanistan in February. He would have come home with the group that was welcomed at an awards ceremony in Hunt Valley. Saturday, his family was there in his place.

After a year of serving our country in Afghanistan, more than 40 members of the Maryland Army National Guard returned home.

But for one soldier’s family, this reunion was bittersweet.

“To be completely honest, sometimes I don’t totally want to go at first. I just want him to be there,” Leah Marchanti, Maj. Robert Marchanti’s daughter, said.

Maj. Robert Marchanti would have returned home with the group at the ceremony. But in February, he was one of two soldiers murdered by an Afghan police officer he was helping to train.

In his honor, his son stepped in to receive an award at the ceremony.

“It was heartbreaking for him to not be here today. It was heartbreaking to see my son sit in his place,” Peggy Marchanti, Maj. Robert Marchanti’s wife, said.

While it can be difficult for Maj. Robert Marchanti’s family to watch other soldiers reunited with their families, being there also gives them comfort.

“To see the men come back safe and feel proud that they went and all that this country is doing over there,” Peggy Marchanti said.

“I don’t know why but talking to the military men makes me feel closer to him,” Leah Marchanti said.

These soldiers are being honored on a day that marks the end of the troop surge in Afghanistan.

The last of the 30,000 troops ordered there in November of 2009 are now making their way home.

“To come home and be reunited with friends and family having complete their mission, it’s a good thing to see,” Gen. Chuck Whittington of the Maryland Army National Guard said.

Especially for families who’ve experienced loss.

“I really just wanted all the other dads and husbands, I wanted them to be able to come home to their families because I know how bad it feels when your dad can’t come home,” Leah Marchanti said.

The soldiers that were honored were deployed to Afghanistan in September 2011 and returned in July this year.

Following the end of the troop surge, there will be around 68,000 troops still in Afghanistan. The plans to bring them back home are expected to be released in November.

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