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The first flight full of Wings of Destiny Soldiers returned home on Friday

 

Wings of DestinyFort Campbell, KY – On a rainy Friday afternoon, the first full up flight consisting entirely of Wings of Destiny soldiers returned to Fort Campbell.  The plane carried 235 sons, daughters, fathers, and mothers home to their loved ones. Due to unforeseen circumstances, I was arriving late to the flight and so had a rare opportunity to see the beautiful sight of the airplane coming in over Fort Campbell BLVD heading for Fort Campbell Army Airfield. I arrived just in time to watch the soldiers disembarking from the plane heading to the hanger. Due to the rain I was unable to get my usual outdoor shots.

Family and friends of the returning soldiers had gathered together to give their loved ones a proper welcome home.

Soldiers of the 101st CAB (Wings of Destiny) patiently wait for the ceremony to be over so they can spend time with their families

Soldiers of the 101st CAB (Wings of Destiny) patiently wait for the ceremony to be over so they can spend time with their families

15 minutes before the flight arrived the family members were allowed to proceed outdoors to wait on for a chance to see the flight bearing their loved ones arrive.

At around 4:00pm 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 waiting families soldiers 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.

Maj. Gen. Frank Wiercinski speaking with Clarksville businessman Jack Turner before the ceremony

Maj. Gen. Frank Wiercinski speaking with Clarksville businessman Jack Turner before the ceremony

As soon as they were all assembled, the doors to the hanger were opened and the 128 soldiers marched in before the cheering crowd.

A father drinks in the bubbly personality of his young daughter

A father drinks in the bubbly personality of his young daughter

An invocation was given by a military Chaplin Pete Stone, followed by comments from Commanding Deputy Commander Maj. Gen. Frank Wiercinski. He welcomed the returning soldiers home, “I gotta tell you, we aim to please. A bath and shower before you see everybody. This is our first Wings of Destiny full up flight, 101st CAB you look great!… Welcome Home” The 101st Airborne Division 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.

Clarksville businessman Jack Turner was also on hand to show his support for the troops. He had rushed back from a day full of meetings in Nashville to welcome the returning soldiers home.

A newly returned soldier gently places his hand on his pregnant wifes bulging belly

A newly returned soldier gently places his hand on his pregnant wifes bulging belly

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!

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