FORT STEWART, Ga. - This Father’s Day weekend was bitter sweet for many Families who were reunited after a year-long separation. Approximately 1,000 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division Soldiers were welcomed home by thousands of Family Members and friends, June 19 " 21, from their year-long, advise-and-assist mission in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn, at Fort Stewart's Newman Fitness Center and Cottrell Field.

Among those in attendance were Maj. Gen. Robert Abrams, 3rd Infantry Division commanding general, and Command Sgt. Maj. Edd Watson, 3rd ID command sergeant major, who greeted and welcomed home the Vanguard Soldiers at each ceremony.

“You have so much to be proud of,” said Maj. Gen. Abrams. “[Through] your accomplishments, you demonstrated that everybody in the Army knows what 'right' looks like in terms of agility, initiative and being able to set the conditions so that our kids and our kid’s kids are not going to have to go back to Iraq to finish unfinished business.”

Jessica Ortiz and her children, Leilani, 5 and Giovanni, 7 who stood anxiously as she waited for her husband, Sergeant 1st Class Ricardo Ortiz, 3rd Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, to return home, said they plan on taking a small Family vacation.

“We are all so excited to see him come home,” Jessica said. “We haven’t seen him since January and we are planning a trip to Disney to spend needed quality Family time together.”

For one retired Soldier, the Army is a Family tradition.

“I am very proud of my grandson,” said Retired Sgt. 1st Class Clarence McKinley, of Pfc. Andrew McKinley who is an Infantryman for 3/15 Inf. “I am happy to finally get to see him come home.”

After the singing of the Army Song, the zealous crowd stamped their way onto the field to hug, kiss and hold their returning Soldier.

“It’s great to be home,” said Sgt. 1st Class Timothy Montfort, an Infantryman assigned to 6th Squadron, 8th Cavalry Regiment, as he held his daughter, Jaelyn, 9, tightly in his arms.

After the returning Soldiers complete "warrior reintegration," they will have a chance for leave. Roughly two-thirds of the Vanguard Brigade has returned and the remaining deployed Soldiers are slated to redeploy stateside over the next couple of days.

Page last updated Thu June 23rd, 2011 at 00:00