Fort Campbell, KY – In a flight that arrived at Sunset Friday Afternoon, 150 members of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team returned home. They had been on deployment to the Khowst Province of Afghanistan for the last year.
Family and friends of the returning soldiers had gathered together to give their loved ones a proper welcome home.
Vice President Joe Biden was on hand to welcome the soldiers home.
He had come to Fort Campbell to visit with the Fort Campbell Falcons High School Foot Ball Team to congratulate them for winning three consecutive Kentucky State High School Football Championships, in spite of the challenge of many of the player’s parents being deployed. Biden described the 101st Airborne Division as “The single most significant group of warriors this nation has ever created are fighting right now.” he continued “You guys all got good blood.”
In recognizing the sacrifice made by the children of Fort Campbell, the Vice President told the students, “We owe you. We owe you big.”
While meeting with the team, the Vice President congratulated the players and coaches on their success in the face of adversity, and commended them for their perseverance and teamwork. “Man I tell you what – you guys are impressive,” he said to the football team, “..You guys are known from here to Baghdad.”
The vice president had learned about their record from an article in Sports Illustrated Magazine, and had wanted to bring the players to Washington DC to watch the Super Bowl with him, but the logistics proved insurmountable. So the Vice President did the next best thing, he flew down to Tennessee to visit with them.
When he learned that a welcome home ceremony was scheduled for later in the day, the Vice President insisted on attending. While there the Vice President took time to meet with families of the returning soldiers to personally thank them for their sacrifice.
At 5:41 pm the plane touched down to a chorus of cheers A short time later the soldiers began to disembark from the aircraft where they were greeted personally by the Vice President and other dignitaries. They then proceeded to march to an assembly point near the hangers to drop off their gear so they could visit with their families.
When they were all ready, The soldiers marched into the hanger before the cheering crowd.
An invocation was given by Chaplin Dewey Smith, followed by comments from Deputy Commander Maj. Gen. Frank Wiercinski. “There are a great many beautiful sights in our nation, but seeing a plane land in sunset on Fort Campbell Kentucky and watching 150 Screaming Eagles walk through that door is a sight you will never forget.” He continued “Ladies and Gentlemen it is my honor and privilege, Please help me give a great Screaming Eagle Welcome to the Vice President of the United States of America.”
Vice President Biden talked about his visit with the Fort Campbell High School Football team, and a recent trip to Afghanistan where he was presented with a 101st Airborne Division Flag by Maj. Gen Campbell, the Commander of the 101st Airborne Division. He then welcomed the soldiers home.
Following the Vice President’s speech, The 101st Airborne Division Army Band played the Army song and the 101st Song, with many of the soldiers singing along. Then it was time for 15 minutes of quality family time.
This was the first time many of these soldiers had seen their loved ones since early 2010, and it showed. How families reacted to their reunion differed wildly. Some kissed, while others stood in the middle of the tumult lost in each others company. Some posed for pictures. For the family men it was the beginning of the process of sharing the stories gathered during the lost year of their lives.
When the 15 minutes was over the soldiers were formed back up. It was time for the soldiers to march out to the buses, as the families were given a last minute briefing on potential issues that may arise and how to best to handle them.
If you are interested in attending a Welcome Home Ceremony. Flights are scheduled for Monday Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Plan to arrive at least 2 hours early. Enter at Gate 7, and follow the signs. Hope to see you there!
The Vice President’s visit to Fort Campbell followed his speech at the University of Louisville for the McConnell Center’s spring lecture series. The Vice President returned to Washington, DC, this evening.
Fort Campbell High School Visit
Welcome Home Ceremony
Editor’s Note: Due to the news worthiness of the Vice Presidents visit, this story ran out of order. The story for the return on Monday will come up later this weekend.