• Soldiers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team "Rakkasans," 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) exit an airplane and shake hands with brigade and division leaders March 27 as they return from a deployment to Afghanistan and see their families for the first time in seven months at a welcome home ceremony at Fort Campbell, Ky. The event marked the third group of Rakkasans to return early from the brigade's current nine month deployment due to the increasing progress of the Afghan National Security Forces in the region. (U.S. Army photo taken by Sgt. Alan Graziano, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division)

    Rakkasans return, reunite with family

    Soldiers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team "Rakkasans," 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) exit an airplane and shake hands with brigade and division leaders March 27 as they return from a deployment to Afghanistan and see their families for the...

  • Family members wait eagerly by the Fort Campbell Army Air Field as approximately 240 Soldiers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team "Rakkasans," 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) stand in formation as they return from a deployment to Afghanistan and prepare to see each other for the first time in seven months at a welcome home ceremony. The event marked the third group of Rakkasans to return early from the brigade's current nine month deployment due to the increasing progress of the Afghan National Security Forces in the region. (U.S. Army photo taken by Sgt. Alan Graziano, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division)

    Rakkasans return, reunite with family

    Family members wait eagerly by the Fort Campbell Army Air Field as approximately 240 Soldiers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team "Rakkasans," 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) stand in formation as they return from a deployment to Afghanistan and...

  • A Soldier from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team "Rakkasans," 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) embraces his daughter as he returns from a deployment to Afghanistan and they see each other for the first time in seven months at a welcome home ceremony. The event marked the third group of Rakkasans to return early from the brigade's current nine month deployment due to the increasing progress of the Afghan National Security Forces in the region. (U.S. Army photo taken by Sgt. Alan Graziano, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division)

    Rakkasans return, reunite with family

    A Soldier from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team "Rakkasans," 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) embraces his daughter as he returns from a deployment to Afghanistan and they see each other for the first time in seven months at a welcome home ceremony...

  • A Soldier from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team "Rakkasans," 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) embraces his children as he returns from a deployment to Afghanistan and they see each other for the first time in seven months at a welcome home ceremony. The event marked the third group of Rakkasans to return early from the brigade's current nine month deployment due to the increasing progress of the Afghan National Security Forces in the region. (U.S. Army photo taken by Sgt. Alan Graziano, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division)

    Rakkasans return, reunite with family

    A Soldier from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team "Rakkasans," 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) embraces his children as he returns from a deployment to Afghanistan and they see each other for the first time in seven months at a welcome home ceremony...

  • Spc. Robert Fay Jr., an infantryman from Company D, 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team "Rakkasans," 101st Airborne Division, reunites with his father, Robert Fay, a former Rakkasan, March 27 at a welcome home ceremony at Fort Campbell, Ky. Although not at the ceremony, Fay's grandfather is also a former Rakkasan, and the three generations of the Fay family have served the elite 187th Infantry Regiment in several wars dating back nearly to the beginning of its history. (U.S. Army photo taken by Sgt. Alan Graziano, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division)

    Rakkasans return, reunite with family

    Spc. Robert Fay Jr., an infantryman from Company D, 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team "Rakkasans," 101st Airborne Division, reunites with his father, Robert Fay, a former Rakkasan, March 27 at a welcome home ceremony at...

  • Spc. Robert Fay Jr., an infantryman from Company D, 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team "Rakkasans," 101st Airborne Division, reunites with his father, Robert Fay, a former Rakkasan, March 27 at a welcome home ceremony at Fort Campbell, Ky. Although not at the ceremony, Fay's grandfather is also a former Rakkasan, and the three generations of the Fay family have served the elite 187th Infantry Regiment in several wars dating back nearly to the beginning of its history. (U.S. Army photo taken by Sgt. Alan Graziano, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division)

    Rakkasans return, reunite with family

    Spc. Robert Fay Jr., an infantryman from Company D, 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team "Rakkasans," 101st Airborne Division, reunites with his father, Robert Fay, a former Rakkasan, March 27 at a welcome home ceremony at...

FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. -- Approximately 240 Soldiers from various companies and battalions of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team "Rakkasans," 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) returned home from a deployment to Afghanistan and were recognized with a welcome home ceremony March 27 at the Campbell Army Airfield.

Welcome home ceremonies are very unique events because they provide the first opportunity for Soldiers and family members to reunite after long periods of separation that result from deployments.

Among the hundreds of family members eagerly waiting for their Soldiers to arrive, there was a certain veteran -- a former Rakkasan infantryman -- who was experiencing a particularly ironic turn of events.

"In 1991, we went over [to Iraq] for the First Persian Gulf War," said Mr. Robert Fay Sr., a former Soldier from the 3rd Battalion "Iron Rakkasans," 187th Infantry Regiment, and also the father of Spc. Robert Fay Jr., a third-generation infantryman who followed his father's and grandfather's footsteps into combat in the very same battalion that they served in.

"Robert was born after I left, so I met him for the first time in this hangar right here," he said.

"My wife handed him to me; he was seven months old. Now, the tables are turned, and I'm waiting for him."

Being reminded by the familiar situation, Mr. Fay had some flashbacks of his own experiences as he anticipated his son's return.

"I'm kind of thinking, 'what's going through his mind?'" he said.

"He's doing this right now and he's doing that right now. They made me wait forever when we came in."

Finally, however, the wait was over. The plane landed and the returning Rakkasans were greeted by congratulatory handshakes from key leaders and ecstatic cheers from their family members as the Soldiers walked past and prepared to enter the hangar.

The bay doors opened wide and the formation of Soldiers marched forward. The chaplain gave an invocation and the honorary speaker provided some words of wisdom to the returning warriors.

"The commanders told you down-range to take care of yourself and take care of your buddy; today, I would add, take care of your families," said Brig. Gen. Mark Stammer, the acting Commander of the 101st Airborne Division.

He then released the Soldiers to their families; spouses, children and parents excitedly rushed to find their returning Soldiers among the massive formation.

Among the crowd, Mr. Fay quickly spotted his son and gave him a hug, holding on tightly as he embraced the moment. He was relieved that he had finally made it home safely after spending several months in Afghanistan conducting combat missions.

"This is a day I will probably never forget," said Spc. Fay just moments after reuniting with his father, mother, siblings and girlfriend.

Among the many overwhelming feelings, the Fays experienced a strong sense of pride in their shared military heritage.

"I'm honored; I'm really glad that he did [join the Army], and that he became a Rakkasan," said Mr. Fay.

Although he knows that living up to the Rakkasan legacy left behind by his father and grandfather is no easy task, Spc. Fay said that the support he gets from them is what motivates him to drive on.

"It's a lot of heritage to fill those shoes," he said.

"It's a lot of hard work, but I know they're happy, so that's all that matters."

After a short period of reintegrating back into his pre-deployment lifestyle, Spc. Fay and his fellow returning veterans will go back to doing what Rakkasans do best -- training hard to perfect their combat skills and tactics.

Page last updated Wed April 3rd, 2013 at 00:00