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Sgt. Bret Mathewson with his fiancee, Kristin Anderson. Photo by Randy Hanson

Hudson soldier returns from Afghanistan

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news River Falls, 54022
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

Rick and Mary Mathewson, 916 Seventh St., hosted a daylong open house on Saturday to welcome home their son Bret.

Bret, a sergeant with the 330th Military Police Detachment, spent the past 10 months in Afghanistan.

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The Sheboygan-based U.S. Army Reserve unit received a hero's welcome when it flew into Volk Air Field at Camp Douglas on Sunday, Aug. 23.

The Mathewsons, their younger son Tommy, Bret's fiancée Kristin Anderson, and his grandmother Mora Ballweber were among those on hand to greet the returning soldiers.

"It really was something when they landed - to see all of those guys get off, and they're all safe," Ballweber said on Saturday. She became teary-eyed again at the thought of the happy reunion.

"I'm proud of him. Incredibly," she said. "I'm proud of all of them."

Ballweber, Rick Mathewson's mother, came from her home in Cedar City, Utah, to be here for her grandson's return.

Mathewson had three days of debriefing before he was allowed to return to civilian life. He has three-and-a-half years left on his commitment to the Army Reserve.

His unit was stationed at Bagram Air Base near Kabul for its entire tour in Afghanistan.

Mathewson served as a patrolman on the base and also did some customs work, inspecting items before they were shipped back to the United States.

"The most difficult thing was just finding stuff to occupy yourself. It got pretty boring," he said of the experience. He spent almost all of his time on the air base.

"It was an interesting experience. Not a place I would move to," he replied when asked about Afghanistan.

The 330th left the country a day before the presidential election that has been in the news.

Asked what his thoughts were on the overall mission in Afghanistan, Mathewson said he hadn't given it much thought since returning home.

"I'm just trying to get back into the swing of things at home - focus on that," he said.

He was sitting in a hot tub with a bag of toasted almonds in hand and a smile on his face when a reporter stopped by shortly after noon on Saturday.

"Kristin, what are our plans?" he asked his fiancée when the question was put to him.

She replied that they were going to have some fun and take a trip to the isles of Greece.

Anderson and Mathewson met during their freshman years at UW-Milwaukee. She is from Racine.

Mathewson, a 2004 graduate of Hudson High School, said he'll be returning to Milwaukee and is considering a variety of career plans.

The 23-year-old graduated from UW-Milwaukee with a bachelor's degree in criminal justice shortly before his Army Reserve unit was activated last summer.

In July of 2008, he won the Army Reserve's "Best Warrior" competition for six Midwestern states and was among 32 soldiers to advance to the national competition.

He's thinking about applying for U.S. Army flight school or returning to college for a science degree or becoming a teacher, paramedic or firefighter.

"I've got a lot of different plans," he said with a grin.

Mathewson's father is vice president of product marketing for Calypso Control Systems, a Hudson software engineering group that specializes in integrating the technology in school classrooms.

Mary Mathewson is the office administrator for an Edwards Jones financial adviser in Osceola.

Tommy Mathewson is starting his sophomore year at UW-River Falls.

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