Welcome Home: 18th Engineer Brigade returns after 15-month deployment
July 22, 2009
- Approximately 130 Soldiers returned to Heidelberg July 19
HEIDELBERG, Germany -- After 15 months and more than 20,000 miles on the ground in Iraq, approximately 130 Soldiers from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 18th Engineer Brigade returned to Heidelberg July 19.
Anabel Rodriguez and her two sons, Damian and Aaron Huerta, grabbed seats in the front row and patiently waited for husband and father Sgt. Nathaniel Huerta to march into the Patrick Henry Village Pavilion for the welcome home ceremony.
The couple has been married for 12 years, and this was the first deployment for the family.
"He came home for R&R in February for our anniversary, so that was really nice," Rodriguez said.
Huerta joined the Army in 2003 and was stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas.
"This was actually our first military (member) in the family at all," Rodriguez said. "It was all new and different to us. It's been good."
While at Fort Bliss, the family was able to go home to Houston on four-day weekends, but life in Germany has been a different story.
"(Moving to Germany) was drastic for us, but we adjusted well," Rodriguez said. "We love it here, and we're hoping to stay another three years."
The family has lived in Germany for two years, but, of course, Huerta has been deployed for the majority of it.
Rodriguez said she stayed busy working on Coleman Barracks in Mannheim and traveling with the boys. The couple was able to talk on the phone or via Webcam nearly every day.
"It all worked out really well for us - and the experience was hard, but in the end, it was all worth it," she said. "We made it, so what matters most is that we're both here."
As a human resource information system management specialist, Huerta spent more than one year in various Iraqi cities with the Soldiers from his unit.
"We went into Tikrit first and did a phenomenal job," Col. Matthew Russell, 18th Engineer Brigade commander, told Rodriguez and the other family members waiting to reunite with their loved ones. "And then they pushed us up to Kirkuk, so we could ... rebuild in that city, and finally to the hotbed of Mosul, where I can tell you, you ought to be proud of your Soldiers - and I know you are - for the tremendous job they did in taking on the rebuilding of the essential services and structure in Mosul to give those people, 2.5 million people in Mosul, the chance to regain the livelihood in their lives.
"It is because of the troops you see here today that Mosul and Ninewa Province and Iraq can now again start to stand upon its own feet and take care of its own country," the colonel said before thanking the families for their constant support and then releasing the troops for their first day back home.
As for Rodriguez and Huerta, they're gearing up to spend some time together on vacation - a family vacation. Rodriguez said she is ready to be a family again and go back to the routine they had together.
"We're really united," she said, "and with him being gone, I think it's actually made us stronger."
(Editor's Note: Kelli Bland is the editor of the USAG Baden-Wuerttemberg newspaper, the Herald Post).