by Jennifer Zilko
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2007
Web Video Report
FORT RICHARDSON, Alaska - Three hundred more are home and counting.
The fifth plane load of paratroopers from Fort Richardson came in today.
They are back from Iraq after more than 14 months at war.
Most were greeted by family and friends.
But for the few who had no one to come home to, there was a pint-size surprise: A seven year old Cub Scout on a mission of his own.
As the 291 soldiers get ready to walk through the doors of Buckner Physical Fitness Center on Fort Richardson, hundreds of loved ones wait.
But for some of the soldiers who arrived home from the 14-month deployment to Iraq there was no family.
That's where 7-year-old Karch Verlanic comes in.
"They don't have any family so we're supporting them because they don't have any kind of girlfriends or any family to come and see them and help them," Verlanic said. "So, that's what we're here for."
Verlanic and the rest of his Scout troop adopted four single soldiers when they went off to war.
"I sent them toys and football player toys, candy, food, water, all that kind of stuff," Verlanic said.
Today he gets to meet one of them face to face, and he wants to make sure he gets it right.
"Welcome home, it's nice to meet you, shake hands and do that," Verlanic said.
After perfecting the signs they've made, they wait and watch for their soldier pen-pal to walk out of war and into their life for the very first time.
Even though he's not greeted by true family, Spc. Karl Diffenbaugh is still grateful.
"It was pretty awesome," Diffenbaugh said. "I just thought I was going to grab my stuff and go back to my room, but I saw these guys and came over to them and they've been writing me when I was over in (Iraq) and sending me some stuff."
After a few minutes of visiting, Karch has a piece of advice.
"If you're kind of thirsty reach into the fridge because we got some water for you," Verlanic said.
It was a touch of home, from a small boy who had a big enough heart to adopt an unknown hero and say "hello."
Karch and his mom also greeted another soldier today whose wife couldn't make it.
The scout troop is still waiting to welcome home two more soldiers.
Another 300 soldiers are due to return on Monday.