Tears dry as Guardsmen touch down at SFO 

There were never enough of the heart-wrenching phone calls — the harsh, popping sounds of heavy artillery behind the voices of their sons and daughters at war.

"It’s hard to get any sleep," said Cindy Sill, the Mill Valley mother of a U.S. soldier. "Last night, I couldn’t sleep at all."

Today, she can rest. The teary-eyed mom and her family welcomed home her only son, Spc. Weston Sill, 22, and Staff Sgt. Caliph Fells, 30, of San Francisco on Friday afternoon at San Francisco International Airport.

The National Guardsmen, unscathed but intensely exhausted from a nine-month deployment in Afghanistan, had few words for their loved ones — but plenty of hugs.

"It’s been hard. I worried about him every day," sister Jessica Sill said. "There were a few e-mails and some texting, but it was never enough."

All in all, 35 soldiers from the 223rd Military Intelligence Battalion returned to their homes Friday across California, military officials said.

Fells, who lived in an apartment on Nob Hill before he was deployed, said his lease has run out and his first priority will be finding a new home. But before the apartment hunt, Fells said, he plans to meet friends for dinner at Roy’s Restaurant in SoMa. He said he was also looking forward to seeing his father, who lives in Vallejo.

"I feel happy, I feel relieved," he said.

The men were headquartered in Kabul and sent to gather and translate intelligence from various battlefields, according to Lt. Col. Graham Clark.

"At this point, they just need time to adjust to being home and back with their families," he said.

Clark said the returning soldiers received some initial counseling in Texas last week for possible post-traumatic stress symptoms.

"We also met with their families last month to talk about the various services they may need and the various counseling and clinics the Army provides," Clark said.

maldax@sfexaminer.com

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