By Spc. Reese Von RogatszMay 28, 2013
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - Raider families and friends jubilantly welcomed back 154 soldiers from 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, May 18, after a six-month deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
The homecoming ceremony took place at Soldiers Field House and Fitness Center, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. Some of those gathered in the gymnasium with signs, banners and balloons, traveled long distances to greet their loved ones face-to-face for the first time in more than half a year.
Kelly and Emily Hill came from the greater area of Austin, Texas. The mother and sister of Pfc. Matt Ingram, an infantryman with 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, returning from his tour with elements of the brigade, anxiously awaited the arrival of brother and son.
"Every day, there was a big part of my mind worrying about him and another part of my mind trying to make the other side feel better," said his mother, Kelly.
According to his mother, Ingram, now 22 years old, made the decision to enter the service when he was "really young". He always felt that it was something he needed to do and felt that everyone should do, she explained.
"I know it was a good decision for him, but it was a gut-wrenching decision, a decision that's hard to live with day-to-day as a mom," she said.
A hush of anticipation fell over the crowd as a side door was rolled up to admit returning troops, but it quickly changed to unrestrained cheering as soldiers marched in formation to the center of the brightly polished floor. After a brief formation, they were released to their loved ones.
Reunions were complete.
Two groups, one dressed in multi-colored clothes, the other in multi-camouflaged uniforms, met and embraced each other in that floor space to the sound of Thin Lizzy's "The Boys are Back in Town."
In the midst of chaos, among the hugs and kisses, the tears and laughter, Ingram, like many others, came together with his Family in a private, joyous moment.
"My birthday was three days ago so this is kind of like God's gift to me, the best birthday present I could ask for," said his sister, Emily.
Ingram described the Army as an extended family, sharing thoughts about his first deployment.
"Most memorable is the bond you get between everyone. Once you're out there, all you have is each other," Ingram said. "[I'm] happy to be home."
The returning Raiders were part of Combined Task Force 4-2, which is responsible for providing security force assistance by supporting Afghan National Security Forces as they conduct wide area security operations. The CTF 4-2 also provides support to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan as it strengthens good governance efforts in order to neutralize threats to stability, retain and expand security gains in key terrain, and facilitate transition to follow on forces.
The early redeployment of Soldiers is part of an overall plan to withdraw 34,000 service members by February, 2014, as announced by President Obama in his 2013 State of the Union address. As the Afghan National Security Forces increasingly take the lead for the security of their country, military personnel, including Soldiers from 4th SBCT, 2nd Inf. Div. will re-deploy back to JBLM in the coming months.