Fort Campbell, KY – In a flight that arrived on a cold Wednesday morning, 145 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.
It’s always wonderful when soldiers returning from deployment get reunited with family and friends. But at this welcome home ceremony the reunion was especially sweet. The unit was being reunited with a comrade who had fallen in battle.
SSG Derek Jennings had deployed with the Third Brigade when they went to Afghanistan in 2010. He was medevaced from Kandahar in October 2010 after he fell victim to a pressure plate IED. The explosion cost him his left leg below the knee, and shrapnel peppered his right leg. Since returning home he has had multiple surgeries to repair the damage he suffered that day. He has also had to deal with a series of infections.
Jennings is married to Karissa; and they have two children Luke and Emma.
Shortly before the plane arrived Jennings walking on crutches moved outside to see his unit come in.
At 9:18am the plane touched down to a chorus of cheers.The soldiers rapidly disembarked from the aircraft and proceeded to march to an assembly point near the hangers to drop off their gear; along the way Jennings stood waiting. Every single soldier of the returning unit stopped to pay their respects, some to share a bear hug. After everyone had dropped off their gear assembled in formation , the returning soldiers marched into the hanger before the cheering crowd.
An invocation was given by Chaplin Dewey Smith, followed by comments from Commanding Deputy Commander Maj. Gen. Frank Wiercinski. The 101st Airborne Division Army Band played the Army song and the 101st Song, with many of the soldiers singing along. After the short ceremony it was time for some quality family time.
Army Wife and Soldier Angela Crossland had some important news to share with her husband Sgt. Daniel Crossland, and her colorfully decorated shirt said it all, “Welcome Home Dadda, it’s a boy”.
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, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Plan to arrive at least 2 hours early. Enter at Gate 7, and follow the signs. Hope to see you there!
Editor’s note: This story was originally scheduled to run on 02-11-2011, but had been rescheduled when Vice President Joe Biden attended the welcome home ceremony that afternoon.