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kosovo return
MIKE McCLEARY/Tribune Adjutant General David Spryncznatyk, adjutant of the North Dakota National Guard, holds Eden Anton, 4, next to her mom, Amy, after announcing on Friday the upcoming return of the National Guard soldiers from their peacekeeping mission in Kosovo. Anton's husband is Staff Sgt. Eric Anton. 7-9-2010

Four-year-old Eden Anton is busy making plans.

Her daddy is coming home.

Eden and her mother, Amy of Bismarck, and others received the official word Friday from Maj. Gen. David Sprynczynatyk, North Dakota National Guard adjutant general and Gov. John Hoeven the troops would be home in about three weeks.

Nearly 700 soldiers from the 231st Maneuver Task Force (231st Brigade Support Battalion), Valley City, and the Headquarters and Headquarters Company of the 141st Maneuver Enhancement Brigade mobilized in August  of 2009.

The North Dakota Guard units headed a multinational peacekeeping force in Kosovo as the Balkan nation rebuilds after decades of civil war.

About 35 troops will remain in Kosovo while the Puerto Rico National Guard takes over the mission.

About 160 Guard members returned from Kosovo in May.

Sprynczynatyk said the remaining troops will return in roughly three weeks after about a week of demobilization before returning home.

Sprynczynatyk said because of security issues, specific details will be released later but families will be notified when the troops are back on U.S. soil and notified 24 to 48 hours in advance of their return to North Dakota.

Some of the troops will demobilize at Fort Benning, Ga., and others at Camp Attebury, Ind.

They will return from there on either commercial or charter flights into Bismarck and Fargo,  Sprynczynatyk said.

In comments, Hoeven noted the one-year anniversary of the tornado that pummeled south Dickinson, a disaster Guard troops responded to the following morning.

Whether it is natural disasters like tornados or flooding or fighting the global war on terrorism, Hoeven said North Dakota troops have served admirably and with distinction.

“The good new is KFOR is coming home,” Hoeven said. “They were in charge of a peacekeeping force that number in the thousands ... ours are the finest National Guard troops of all 50 states,” he said.

“We could not be prouder.”

Hoeven also noted the deaths of two North Dakota troops, Sgt. Terry Rishling who died of a heart attack in Kosovo, and Army Spc. Keenan Cooper who was killed Monday in Afghanistan.

“When they put on the uniform,” Hoeven said, “they put it all on the line.”

 Sprynczynatyk said North Dakota Guard members and their families know there are risks associated with their duty.

“Sadly we have lost 23 people,” he said. “We will never forget their sacrifices.”

Amy Anton said for her and Eden, the experience of living without their husband and father, Eric, has been eased some by the extended family that is the Guard.

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“The support has been amazing,” she said. “I have made so many new friends and every month there is something planned and we are able to get together.”

Communicating via Internet and Skype with her husband, a supply sergeant, also has lessened the distance.

“We have been able to talk three or four times a week,” Anton said. She added it has helped Eden miss her daddy less.

So for a pretty little 4-year-old girl and her mom, there is a lot to do in the next three weeks or so.

Eden says she wants to decorate their house and have sparklers ready to light when her daddy comes homes.

And a trip to South Dakota to visit Bear Country and Reptile Gardens also is in the works.

“The snakes are my favorite,” Eden said.

But before that, Eden says she wants to play a few games of Candyland.

Oh yes — Eden said she usually wins those games with her daddy.

(Reach reporter Brian Gehring 250-8254 or

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