Local soldiers return home from year-long deployment in Iraq and Kuwait

Army National Guard soldiers return home from deployment

The News10NBC Team details breaking News, Traffic and Weather.

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Four local soldiers in the U.S. Army National Guard returned home to their families on Friday after a year-long deployment to Iraq and Kuwait. 

News10NBC was there for the emotional reunion. 

It was their faith that brought the Craft family to our region. “We moved up to Rochester in 2019; we were actually helping to start a church,” explains Lauren Craft.  She and her husband Josh ended up starting a family in Rochester too. but Josh always felt a pull to serve.

“My husband joined the New York National Guard while we were up here, then went to Officer-Candidate School and then we moved away in 2021 for him to go to Flight School and then we came back,” she explains.

For the last year Lauren, who is a NICU nurse at Rochester General Hospital; 4-year-old Ada; and 9-month-old Ivy have been home in Irondequoit while Josh was deployed. 

Lt. Josh Craft is a Chinook helicopter pilot.

“He has not held his baby girl since she was a newborn, it’s been very difficult,” Lauren says, “I’ve drawn a lot of strength from my faith, my friends — the other wives in the unit are incredible.”

In addition to Lt. Craft, Sgt. Samantha Harvey, Spec. Jeff Pieper and Staff Sgt. Brian Tenace also returned home to their loved ones on Friday.  The soldiers’ kids, parents, spouses and friends ran to greet them. 

“It’s been a lot more than I expected,” said Lt. Craft. “I’m just happy to be home now and be with my family and glad that everyone made it back and everyone is doing good.”

Also in the crowd to welcome the soldiers home was Ed Leo, the Crafts’ neighbor.

“It is really special because Ed actually is a Vietnam veteran. He did not receive a welcome home, he was actually met with a lot of hatred — and he said, ‘If I could make another soldier’s homecoming special, I vowed that I would do that,’” Lauren recalls.   

Several members of the Chinook unit who deployed at the same time are still making their way home.  They’re expected to arrive back in Rochester at different times over the next few weeks.