Fort Polk Soldiers home at last
January 16, 2009
Palpable excitement and anticipation have permeated the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk as Soldiers from the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, and 142nd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 1st Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, return home after a 13 to 14 month deployment in support of the Global War on Terror.
Soldiers from 4/10 began arriving on the installation Dec. 31, ushering in the new year. About 3,400 Soldiers from the 4/10 are expected to return by the end of January. The brigade deployed in November 2007 for combat operations in Iraq. As 4/10 units return home, welcome ceremonies and family reunions are held at the Youth Services Gym, bldg 2070. Ceremony times are posted in advance on the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk web site at www.jrtc-polk.army.mil.
On a New Year's Day ceremony, Army spouse Mary Lambert patiently waited at the YS Gym for the troop-laden bus to arrive from the Alexandria International Airport. Accompanied by son Mikey, 9, and daughter Mylidia, 3, Lambert was looking forward to reuniting with her husband, Spc. Andrew Lambert, 94th Brigade Support Battalion, 4th BCT, 10th Mtn Div. "It's about time," she said. "I can't wait to see him. We want 'our daddy' back," said Lambert.
Yolander Ashford was also waiting with the throng at the festively decorated gym carrying her 15-month old nephew, Tigaye. Together they watched the gym door for a glimpse of the boy's mother, Spc. Hettie Robinson, 94th BSB. "He was only four months old when she left," said Ashford. "This is her first child and I am glad for their reunion today."
Capt. Jason Deel, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, 4/10, was among the busloads of returning Soldiers. His bright smile was an indication of joy his to be home. "I am looking forward to spending time with my Family," he said. "This was my third Christmas deployed. Now I'm glad to be home."
Jan. 5 at 1:45 p.m., Fort Polk celebrated the return of Soldiers from the 142nd CSSB, 1st MEB. With apparently abundant anticipation and intense emotions, Family and friends waited anxiously for battalion Soldiers to walk through the doors of the balloon bedecked 1st MEB Gym Members of the battalion have been deployed for about 15 months.
One of the Families waiting for their Soldier was the Henrys. Patti Henry, spouse to Maj. Doug Henry, and mother of two excited boys, waited for what seemed to be never-ending minutes to see her husband and welcome him home. "I'm a little nervous and anxious right now. I'm about to cry," she said. Sons, Gavin, 11, and Liam, 5, wore white T-shirts decorated with welcome home messages for their dad. "We made our shirts, but Liam had some help from our Mom," said Gavin.
For the Henry boys, the separation from their dad for the past 15 months was the most difficult challenge. "It's hard to have three people in your house when you know you are supposed to have four," said Gavin. Making up for lost time is high on Gavin's list of priorities now that dad is home. "We made 'Fun with your son' tickets. My mom came up with that idea. Liam and I can pick whatever we want to do with dad. We are excited to do that," he said.
Another spouse eager for a reunion was Kat Fresh, whose husband is Maj. Pate Fresh, executive officer for 142nd CSSB. Kat didn't seem to be worried about overcoming the challenges that some Families face after long deployments. "My husband and I know each other well enough after 14 years of marriage that reintegration should be an exciting adventure, but it shouldn't be a problem for us," said Fresh. These two already have plans to get away and relax. "We want to visit some friends and go to Disneyland. We are big Disney people," said Fresh.
Then, the wait was over. As Soldiers began to enter through a side door, the crowd burst into cheers, whistles and applause. Once in formation, the audience settled down for the short ceremony, which included a prayer of thanks for the Soldiers' safe return, the playing of the national anthem and a few words from Col. David Sage, garrison commander.
"To the 142nd CSSB, on behalf of Brig. Gen. James Yarbrough, JRTC and Fort Polk commanding general, welcome. It's about time you got home," said Sage. Then he turned to their loved ones. "Welcome to your Family and friends -- husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, sons and daughters. Thank you for what you've done over the last 15 months. In this difficult time, you gave the love and support required for our Soldiers to focus on their mission," said Sage.
Sage concluded by praising the Soldiers of the 142nd CSSB for their accomplishments. No more than two minutes after he began, he ended with these words: "Since I'm senior guy, I say this ceremony is over. Husbands, wives, mothers, fathers and kids, find your Soldier," said Sage. A pandemonium of hugs, kisses, thanks and well wishes ensued. After kissing his wife, Fresh summed up with simple words what many of the Soldiers were probably feeling: "It's great to be back. I'm ready to be home," said Fresh.