San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Salvadoran Troops Return

SAN SALVADOR (AFP) –Hundreds of Salvadoran soldiers with the Cuscatlan Batallion reunited with their families this week after completing a six-month mission of support for the occupying forces in Iraq.

A hot sun and a special ceremony with President Francisco Flores and hundreds of friends and family members greeted the 360 arrivals at the Special Forces Command Base outside San Salvador on Wednesday.

In his welcome-home speech, Flores applauded the mission and the troops, whom he called “heroes.”

“WE knew the dangers of the mission… but now we applaud the job that you have done and we know that now you will be remembered as heroes for having helped the Iraqi people,” Flores said.

Tears of joy flowed after the speech, when the soldiers were ordered to “break ranks” and go meet their family members.

Santos Elías, 24, saw his daughter Marjory for the first time. She is five months old and was born while he was on duty in Iraq. Visibly excited and teary eyed, he whispered “thank you for this beautiful girl,” to his wife Yanira García, 21.

“She was the handkerchief that wiped my tears while you were away,” García responded.

MAYOR Andrés Bustamante, official Chief of Operations of the battalion in Iraq, said, “Like all military missions, we knew that we were exposed to certain risks, such as attacks. Iraq was an enormous experience for all of the personnel, but we also knew that it was a great challenge to be in an unsafe country when we arrived (last September) and it still is, but we had the luck that the Iraqis in the zone where we were, were really friendly.

They knew how to accept us and appreciated our work.”

Between hugs from his wife, Lieutenant Coronel Sabino Monterroza commented that in Iraq “there is still much to do… the people are in great need.

They lack food, water, they need greater safety, but these things will come little by little.”

THOSE who returned will be relieved by 380 who will be positioned in the Iraqi city Navaf for six more months.

The Salvadoran troops will integrate with troops sent from Honduras, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic in a brigade called “Plus-Ultra” under the command of Poland and Spain.


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