Family, friends and fellow Soldiers gathered at the Major General Warren D. Hodges Armory at Aberdeen Proving Ground May 31 to welcome home more than 45 members of the Maryland Army National Guard's Company B, 3rd Battalion, 126th Aviation Regiment, after a year-long tour in Afghanistan.
The Guardsmen had been deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom with a mission to move troops and supplies throughout the combat zone using CH-47 Chinook helicopters while supporting the International Security Assistance Force.
All of the Soldiers returned without injury, even though they faced hazardous conditions.
"We are grateful to have this success," said MDNG Brig. Gen. Edward Leacock. "In addition to the Guardsmen, I want to give special thanks to their Families and loved ones. Without them we would not have this success. They are my heroes."
Before the Guardsmen arrived, Family members and friends assembled in front of the armory anticipating the return of their loved one. Many made welcome back signs and cards to present. Most of the Family members had been apart for a year and a half due to the mandatory training they went through before deployment.
"I feel overjoyed and overwhelmed," said Martha Hummer, a stay-at-home mother of three, and the wife of Capt. William Hummer. "I am proud of the mission that was accomplished and how they worked together. We are going to reorient as a Family, take some time to appreciate each other, and enjoy summer activities," she said.
Martha added that her daughter's kindergarten class at Little Run Elementary School located in Northern Virginia frequently sent her husband letters and cards while he was away, and made a poster welcoming him back that they were going to give him that day.
Martha added that every passing day her husband was gone they would cross a day off the calendar to countdown to his return.
"I tried not to worry about my husband while he was gone. He assured us that he was in good hands. He made a promise to the Guardsmen that everyone would come home safely," she said.
"The Family support group that we had was also really helpful while he was gone," she added.
Chris Conger, a stay-at-home mom of five from Ohio, traveled to the Edgewood Area to surprise her husband, Sgt. Raymond Conger, by showing up with two of their five children to meet him that day.
"I told him that we couldn't make it because the kids are in school," Chris said. "We wanted to do something special for him."
Chris said that the Family kept in touch through weekly phone calls and frequent e-mails. She added that it will be nice to finally spend some quality time together.
Raymond's mother, Claire Conger, who lives in Baltimore, admitted to being emotional before the reunion of her son.
"I haven't seen him in a year-and-a- half. This is a dream come true," she said.
After Sgt. Conger arrived he said, "It was great to have my Family surprise me," he said. "I was only expecting my dad to come meet me, but as I was riding in the bus someone pointed out a sign that had my name on it, and said, 'Ray's got his Family here!' That was exciting. I am looking forward to spending time with the kids."
Gayle Scrible, mother of Spc. Jeremy Pearce, was also emotional as she reunited with her son.
"This was wonderful," she said. "The happiness I feel now that I am reunited with my son is so much different than the sadness I felt when he went away a year ago."
The welcome home included refreshments organized by Company B's Family Readiness Group, 29th Support Combat Aviation Brigade, lead by Sarah Dalporto, and co-lead Stacey Kecken. Shelly Boydston, the FRG's secretary, also helped organize the event.