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More Wisconsin soldiers returning from Iraq this week

More than 600 soldiers from a Wisconsin National Guard infantry battalion will be returning from Iraq this week.

State National Guard officials say that the Wisconsin Army National Guard's 2nd Battalion, 127th Infantry, is expected to begin arriving at Volk Field near Camp Douglas on Thursday.

That group of about 300 soldiers is scheduled to arrive at approximately 9:00 p.m. A second aircraft carrying the remaining soldiers is expected to arrive early Saturday afternoon.

The battalion lost three soldiers in Iraq. Spc. Michael Wendling, 20, Mayville, and Sgt. Andrew Wallace, 25, Oshkosh, both died Sept. 26, 2005, after a roadside bomb exploded near their Humvee and they were attacked by small arms fire.

Sgt. Ryan Jopek, 20, Merrill, was killed just two weeks ago. On Aug. 2, 2006, Jopek was killed while on his final convoy security mission. He was buried earlier this week in Merrill.

The returning soldiers will be greeted by up to 2,000 cheering family members who have been waiting more than a year for the return of their soldiers.

Gov. Jim Doyle, senior National Guard officials and military bands will also be on hand to welcome the troops back.

The first flight will include soldiers from Onalaska, Waupan, Ripon, Merrill, Antigo and Green Bay.

Saturday's group will include troops from Fond du Lac, Appleton, and Marinette.

After their arrival at Volk Field the soldiers will have a short time to visit with their families before moving onto Ft. McCoy near Sparta where they will spend approximately five days undergoing demobilization.