<b>FORT STEWART, Ga. </b>- For many of the younger Family Members waiting for their loved ones to return, it was probably past their bed time, but they were allowed to stay up late to watch the 526th Engineer Company end their deployment to Afghanistan with a welcome home ceremony at Fort Stewart's Cottrell Field, Sept. 24.

The Families came out in full support with signs, banners and balloons with Americans flags on them to show their appreciation for the returning troops.

They screamed and applauded almost an hour before the troops arrived, listening anxiously to announcements on how close the troops were to the parade field.

"I'm so excited," said April Johnson, who greeted her husband, Spc. James Johnson, at the ceremony. "I'm very proud of him, because he fights for us and our country. He works very hard."
Volunteers joined the loved ones at the parade field.

"I came out here to support the troops and the Families," said Susan Simmons, who volunteered with the United Service Organization to hand out snacks at the ceremony. "I'm here to show that we're here for them whatever they need. I'd tell them thank you... thank you for your service, thank you for defending our country, and thank you for giving us our way of life."

The senior leadership of the 3rd Infantry Division rear detachment was also on hand to greet the returning unit, as Lt. Col. Christopher Love, the senior rear detachment commander, welcomed them home.

"You were essential to our success during Operation Enduring Freedom," he said. "We are proud of your accomplishments. Welcome home to a grateful nation."

Specialist Mitchell Davis, a heavy equipment operator with the unit, said he felt relieved the wait to get home was over, as he held his two children, Alan, 6 months, and Madison, 4.

"It feels awesome to be back with Family and friends," he said.

Captain Jennifers Etters, the 526th Engineer Co. commander, said her unit was responsible for numerous construction projects during their deployment.

Some of their accomplishments include laying down 177,000 square feet of AM2 matting, which is used in the construction of airfields, building living quarters for more than 500 Soldiers during their deployment, constructing roads and numerous other projects.

She was proud of her troops for how they performed in the combat zone.

"They did an outstanding job," she said. "I have some of the hardest working Soldiers. They worked from 12 to 14 hours a day and they all did whatever it took to get the mission done."
Captain Etters added every Soldier who deployed returned home to their Families that night.

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