Welcome home, Raiders!
July 8, 2013
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - A white and blue 747 airliner taxied across McChord Field, finally coming to a halt next to the passenger terminal. After a lengthy delay as the baggage conveyors and staircase were moved into position, ground crewmen finally opened the door to the aircraft.
Much like soda rushes from a shaken bottle when it is finally given an escape route, ecstatic soldiers rushed out of the plane and streamed onto the tarmac. Grins split the soldiers' faces as they filed into the troop holding area. Some even waved miniature American flags and waved for the many cameras recording the event.
Although the troops had finally returned to Joint Base Lewis-McChord from their deployment to Afghanistan, reuniting with their families would have to wait a little longer. Anticipation for their long-awaited homecoming only grew as soldiers turned in their weapons.
Meanwhile, at Soldier's Field House, family members anticipated the homecoming just as much. An audio-visual linkup with cameras at the airfield allowed the crowd to watch the soldiers as they disembarked from their plane, and family members cheered as they saw familiar faces.
Allison Vock sat in the bleachers and eagerly awaited the return of her husband, Pfc. Zack Vock. Only a month earlier, Allison gave birth to the couple's first child, a boy named Parker, in a Maryland hospital. Vock watched the birth on Skype.
"Most of this deployment, I had my pregnancy to keep me busy, so it didn't seem to take so long," Allison said. "Then I had the baby and it started going by really slowly. I just wanted my husband to get back and help me with the baby."
As seconds turned into minutes and minutes turned into hours, a small band playing woodwind and brass instruments started pumping up the crowd with performances of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" and other songs. Finally, the long-awaited announcement came over the public-address system: the soldiers were at the gates and would be arriving in minutes.
The band played the theme to "The A-Team" as soldier-laden buses drove from the gate to the gym. As buses pulled up, the band shifted into the "Army Strong" theme.
When the motivational music concluded, the soldiers marched into the gym as the crowd burst into cheers and applause.
After the band performed the national anthem, Lt. Col. Jody Miller, the rear detachment brigade commander, took the floor to briefly address the returning soldiers.
"I just have one thing to say to all of you Raiders," Miller said. "You don't know how much we missed you and how proud of you we are."
Family members rushed from the stands to welcome their soldiers home. Children were hoisted into their parents' arms, husbands kissed wives, and siblings, in-laws, and best friends were finally reunited.
Vock finally laid eyes on his son for the first time when he found his family.
"I didn't know what to expect when I saw him, but this is even better than I thought it would be!" Vock said.
"I'm so excited!" Allison exclaimed. "Both of my boys are home!"