CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE ADDER, Iraq - After spending 18 days resting home in the coastal city of Huntington Beach, Calif., Pfc. Travis Kaufman wasn't expecting much more.

However, as soon as the 21-year old U.S. Army communications specialist assigned to the 27th Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, arrived at the Dallas Fort Worth Airport, a band of citizens from central and northern Texas greeted him.

Their sole purpose was to provide Kaufman and the 4th BCT "Long Knife" Soldiers with a smooth transition as the Soldiers returned to Iraq from rest and relaxation leave Dec 10.

"I thought I was going to stop in here and go," said Kaufman. "Then, I saw a turkey dinner, and I thought...yeah."

The turkey dinner was provided by the United States Organization as a way of extending a touch of home to the transitioning Soldiers while they traveled during the holiday season. Food, beverages and free internet access were available while the unit waited for their return flight to Iraq.

"This is so much more than I expected," said Kaufman, as he received multiple handshakes and hugs from members of the Mimosa Lane Baptist church in Mesquite, Texas, who volunteered their time to help the USO for the day.

The young, 4th BCT, 1st Cav. Div. Soldier is currently on his first tour in Iraq and has only 16 months of military experience. He said the greeting at the airport was much different than what his father received after returning home from Vietnam.

"He served four years in the Marines," said an emotional Kaufman. "I know he would have appreciated all this; it's so nice to see people supporting us like this."

The USO is a private, non-profit organization, whose mission is to provide morale, welfare and recreation to men and women in uniform. The organization currently operates more than 130 centers worldwide.

"There are no words that can explain how important it is to show support," said Shirley Cooker, a USO volunteer and member of the Mimosa Lane Baptist church. "I did not have a son or a daughter, so it's awesome to give this young man a hug for what he's doing."

Cooker and approximately 25 USO volunteers did everything they could to provide the Long Knife Soldiers with a proper send off as the unit continues its 15-month deployment in southern Iraq.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16