Fort Campbell, KY – The return of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team from the Khowst Province of Afghanistan continued Monday morning with the arrival of 270 soldiers from the 626th Brigade Support Battalion “Assurgam Rakkasans”. The flight was returning home on a very special day for couples, Valentines Day!
Family and friends of the returning soldiers had gathered together to give their loved ones a proper welcome home.
The weather was almost spring like, which was a pleasure after the recent welcome home ceremonies which were cold and snowy. It seemed as if Fort Campbell had awakened with the warming weather.
Aviation activity had clearly intensified with a lone fighter doing several fly bys of the airfield. Various types of helicopters flittered around. When the media arrived it was already time to head outdoors. Many of the family members were already outside waiting on the airplane bearing their loved ones.
At 12:47pm the plane touched down to a chorus of cheers.The soldiers rapidly disembarked from the aircraft and proceeded to march to a assembly point near the hangers to drop off their gear so they could visit with their families. As they approached the assembled families eyes sought out those special people who were there waiting on them. As they saw them smiles broke out on their faces, their family members eyes shining brightly. Many of the soldiers waved
The Fort Campbell Branch of the Navy Federal Credit Union wanted to ensure that the soldiers did not greet their loved ones empty handed so they provided 270 yellow roses to the returning soldiers which were given to them before they marched into the hanger. The doors opened and soldiers then marched into the hanger before the cheering crowd each hand holding one of the beautiful roses.
An invocation was given by Chaplin Dewey Smith, followed by comments from Commanding Deputy Commander Maj. Gen. Frank Wiercinski. He welcomed the returning soldiers home, “It’s a beautiful thing to see 250 Rakkasans walk through that door on Valentines Day each carrying yellow roses.” 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.
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. There were tears of joy and pain. 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 through Friday. Plan to arrive at least 2 hours early. Enter at Gate 7, and follow the signs. Hope to see you there!