By Sgt. Alexis WeiseOctober 8, 2013
JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. - Approximately 200 soldiers from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 555th Engineer Brigade, 7th Infantry Division, and the advance party from the 864th Engineer Battalion, returned home to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., after a nine-month deployment to Afghanistan, Oct. 4.
While deployed, the 555th Engineer Bde. supported Operation Enduring Freedom by serving as a member of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force.
Family and friends waited at Wilson Sports & Fitness Center on North Fort while their soldiers turned in weapons at McChord Air Field.
Although the troops had finally returned from their deployment, reuniting with their loved ones would have to wait a little longer.
An audio-visual linkup with cameras at the airfield allowed the crowd to watch the soldiers as they stepped off their plane. Family members cheered as they saw their familiar faces.
"It is beyond words how I feel right now, our family is finally going to be complete and we can get back to a normal routine," said Christina, wife of Capt. Matthew Pride, commander, HHC. "Our kids will finally have their father and playmate back."
As time passed, a band performed for the crowd while the kids ran around the gym getting to know one another.
Finally, the long-awaited announcement came over the public address system: the soldiers were at the gates and would be arriving in minutes.
Amanda and her one-year-old daughter, Sophia, anxiously waited to welcome home her husband, Pfc. Alexander Avila, HHC, 555th En Bde. after months apart.
"It's been really hard, this is our first deployment and our first child," said Avila. "When he left she was only three months old and it was the worse feeling. I was always worried about him and now I don't have to be anymore because he's back home."
When the music concluded, the soldiers marched into the gym and formed up behind a large curtain which separated them from their loved ones. Everyone in the crowd stood up and cheered for their loved ones.
Before the Soldiers scattered to their awaiting family members, Col. Nicholas Katers, commander, 555th Engineer Bde., addressed the returning Soldiers to welcome them back home.
The short speech ended with the command "dismissed."
Family members rushed from the stands to welcome their Soldiers home. Children were hoisted into their parents' arms, husbands kissed wives, and siblings, in-laws, and friends were finally together at last.
Amanda ran to her husband and gave him a kiss she had been waiting nine months to give.