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Nearly 130 Soldiers in the 63rd Engineer Company (Horizontal), 11th Engineer Battalion, returned from Afghanistan March 4. Their arrival was hailed in a welcome home ceremony with hundreds of guests fellow Soldiers, community volunteers and Family members.
Anxiety, excitement, nervous its like learning each other again, said LaToya Carroll, describing how it feels to reunite with a spouse after a long absence.
The Carrolls have been through more than one deployment together, but this time it was harder, she said, since her kids were older.
My daughter started counting down, Carroll said of her youngest child, 7-year-old Tamia. She counted down for nine months, and she said if he stays there any longer, hell be there 10 months, and he is not supposed to be there 10 months.
Sgt. 1st Class Carlisa Short said she believes Families have a tough time while their Soldiers gone. She was one of many in the crowd, waiting for her husband, 1st Sgt. Kevin Short, but it was a new experience for her.
This is my first time for him being away from me; we were deployed together the first time, she said. I had to keep busy. I learned how to knit, crochet, and now Im into loom knitting. I knew what to expect, but now being on this side, Im feeling emotional. Im happy hes back.
Sgt. Eric Moranavila echoed the same sentiment as he hugged his wife and son.
Im glad to be back, he said. Im glad to see my Family happy theyre here for me to support me in what I do.
Everyone made it back home safe. We accomplished our mission, too, ahead of schedule. It was successful.
The Soldiers spent the nine-month deployment on what could be called a nonstandard mission for engineers, said Col. James Raymer, commander of the 20th Engineer Brigade, Fort Bragg, N.C.
Rather than supporting the combined arms team, they were actually helping to reduce bases and materials, so it could be moved back to the United States as part of the drawdown of forces in the country, he said. It showed some rapid adaptability for the unit. Usually engineers go to build things, but in this case theyre actually helping to deconstruct things so they can be retrograded.
As the Soldiers completed in-processing, Raymer said they were now just looking forward to seeing their loved ones again. Theyve been working very hard, he said. (They) have earned the gratitude of the nation and the respect of the Army. Let it be said, Well done. They left here nine months ago and now finally are reunited with their Families. Its a very important day.
For most in the crowd, it was a reunion with familiar faces, but at least one Soldier met someone for the first time. Spc. James Wyatts son Ethan was born in November.
His mom, Shelley Jessup, said she was looking forward to the meeting and all thats in store for Wyatt down the road. The family has a strong military heritage. Wyatts father, grandfathers, uncles and aunts have served in the military. This was Wyatts first deployment.
Im excited. Im extremely proud. I dont even know how you express it, Jessup said. I guess Im wondering what comes next for him. He re-enlisted while he was over there. Im just happy for what his future is going to hold.