FORT HOOD, Texas (Jan. 25, 2007) - A bitter, wintry, ice-cold rain falling steadily outside could not dampen the spirits of troopers assigned to the 1st Squadron, 124th Cavalry Regiment, 36th Infantry Division, Texas Army National Guard, based in Waco, who received a warm welcome from their families and friends Jan. 23 during an official welcome-home ceremony at the post's Abrams Field House auditorium.
The contingent of Soldiers returned home to the Lone Star State after having completed a yearlong peacekeeping deployment to Egypt's Sinai Peninsula as part of the Multi-National Force and Observers (MFO-49) to observe and uphold the peace between Egypt and Israel.
The MFO is an international peacekeeping force that was created as a result of the 1978 Camp David Accords and the 1979 Treaty of Peace between the Arab Republic of Egypt and the State of Israel. The mission of the MFO is to observe, verify and report violations of the treaty's security provisions from four zones along the Sinai Peninsula. Since 1982, various nations have contributed military and civilian personnel to serve in the Sinai, which that is currently America's longest peacekeeping mission.
Maj. Gen. John T. Furlow, 36th Infantry Division commander, formally welcomed the Soldiers standing in formation, who were proudly wearing their distinct Cavalry Stetson hats and MFO burnt orange berets, and told them that the Texas and the nation are proud of their accomplishment and that the MFO mission could not have been successful without their courage, selfless service and dedication.
"You have placed service for the sake of our country above your own life," General Furlow said. "You have done your part to support our nation on the global war on terrorism and assist the MFO in ensuring compliance in the treaty of peace between Israel and Egypt."
The general reminded the Soldiers that they should all be proud of their service and that they can now take their place alongside their fellow comrades-in-arms who before them have made the sacrifice to bring freedom and peace to oppressed countries around the world.
"Soldiers of Task Force Knight ...welcome home," General Furlow continued. "We salute your courage, your bravery, your sacrifice and your devotion to duty."
General Furlow also expressed his profound gratitude to the family members in the stands who were able to join him on this occasion and recognized them for their personal sacrifice and untiring support.
"Military service is a family affair, and every family member back at home made an equal contribution to the success of this MFO mission," General Furlow said.
The ceremony was bittersweet for Lt. Col. Lee Schnell, task force commander, because half of his 450 Soldiers were delayed in returning home due to flight delays and were unable to attend the event. Nevertheless, Colonel Schnell thanked his troops for their professionalism and hard work and also acknowledged the support and love of their families and friends.
"I'm honored to have been a part of this deployment and having served with you," Colonel Schnell said to the Guardsmen. "Have a safe return home to your families, and I look forward to uncasing our colors when the rest of our Soldiers are home."
Linda L. Srubar of Liberty Hill, Texas, was one of the fortunate spouses whose husband was standing proudly in formation today. She said that being away from her husband for a year was much harder than she thought it would be, even though she knew that he was serving on a peacekeeping mission in Egypt and not in a volatile combat zone in Iraq or Afghanistan. Still, she said, the separation from her husband was worthwhile knowing that he was doing something that he trained for and is a very noble cause.
"My children and I are very proud of my husband and everyone serving with him in his unit because they are helping to bring peace to other people," Mrs. Srubar said.
Staff Sgt. Christopher M. Srubar, of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 124th Cavalry Regiment, said this was his first overseas deployment after 17 years of service and acknowledged that the mission was not as tough and dangerous as that of Soldiers serving in Afghanistan and Iraq but asserted that the mission they were given was just as important.
"Knowing that my whole family, community and employer are behind me and proud of what I'm doing makes this deployment gratifying," Sergeant Srubar said.