Cold rainy weather can’t dampen the spirits of returning Soldiers and their Families
Fort Campbell, KY – On a cold rainy night 102 soldiers from the 194th Military Police Company, 101st Sustainment Brigade (Lifeliners), returned to Fort Campbell after a 9 month deployment to Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Family and friends of the returning soldiers had gathered together to give their loved ones a proper welcome home. We arrived right as the announcement that the flight was 15 minutes out was made over the PA system. So as we entered the family members were getting themselves weather ready. Normally when the family members are allowed to head outdoors it’s a mad dash to get outside so they can claim the best spots, but due to the rain most of the family members waited inside until the plane had actually touched down.
Around 11:30pm the plane touched and the family members streamed outside to see their loved ones get off the plane. After deplaning as the soldiers walked briskly to the hanger, every eye focused on the crowd searching for their loved ones, but with the darkness acting as a cloak it wasn’t easy. The crowd was doing the same, and as those in the crowd spotted their soldier, they shouted out his or her name to attract their attention.
When the soldiers had passed, the families returned into the hanger to take part in the short ceremony that was all that stood between them and their loved ones.
As soon as they were all assembled, the doors to the hanger were opened and the 102 soldiers marched in before the cheering crowd.
The Ceremony begins with the opening of the hanger door. The soldiers march into the facility as those in the crowd cheer wildly for them. There is a brief ceremony consisting of a short prayer of thanks for their return, followed by remarks from Maj. Gen. James McConville, Commander of the 101st Airborne Division; who when possible personally welcomes the returning soldiers back home.
Referencing the weather, he said “It may be raining outside, it may be cold, but when you are coming back after 9 months in Iraq, and you done an outstanding job like you did, what a great night it is. Congratulations, and welcome home!” McConville then discussed the mission these soldiers did in Iraq, “We are very proud of what you have done, and you should be very proud of what you have done. You’ve made a difference in Iraq. The Iraqi security forces are much better prepared to take on the role of democracy that you’ve made happen. Thank you for your outstanding service.”
He closed with, “Thank you to the families who are here tonight who have stood by their loved ones and provided unwavering support while they were deployed. Let me close with one thought. You took care of each other when you were down range, when you were in combat. Take care of yourselves back here. Again job well done, congratulations, welcome wome, Air Assault!”
At the conclusion of the ceremony, the Soldiers are given 20 minutes of family time which enables them to begin the reunification process with their families.
It’s quite a sight to see as these brave warriors rock hard demeanor melt when they hold their children, and kiss their mothers, wives, or girlfriends for the first time in a year. Believe me, there is never a dry eye in the house.
After the visitation time is over the soldiers form back up, the soldiers march from the hanger en masse and board buses to go to their unit to turn in weapons and other sensitive items.
The soldier’s families are then given a short brief on reintegration issues, and then returned to their vehicles. to go pick up their loved ones once their turn-in was complete.
“This deployment, in all its measurements, was done exceptionally well,” said ‘Lifeliner’ commander Col. Michael Peterman who had returned on an earlier flight. “Talk about making a difference at every level… The 101st Sustainment Brigade is the “Gold standard of an Army logistics formation.”
Soldiers from the 101st Sustainment Brigade have been deployed in support of Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom every day since the inception of the Global War on Terrorism.
If you wish to attend a Welcome Home Ceremony, check the flight schedules online, as times are subject to change at anytime. When arriving to Fort Campbell, enter via Gate 7; if you don’t have installation stickers on your vehicle, you will be required to get a visitor pass. From there just follow the signs to the ceremony parking. Waiting buses transport family members safely to the hanger.