SCHOFIELD BARRACKS - Blusterous cool winds and drizzling rain did not deter hundreds of family and community members who gathered March 12 to welcome home the 25th Infantry Division's 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team in a ceremony on a soggy Sills Field.
During their 15-month deployment, the 4,500 Soldiers of the "Warrior" brigade covered 1,300 square miles, conducted more than 30,000 patrols, and found and cleared more than 322 roadside bombs. Working alongside their Iraqi counterparts for many of the missions, the troops found more than 1,100 weapons caches; completed more than 150 school projects and 20 hospital projects; and provided more than 1,000 micro-grants to Iraqi business owners, totaling more than $2 million.
"It is truly an honor for me to be here to welcome home this great brigade on this field of honor," said Lt. Gen. Benjamin R. Mixon, commanding general of U.S. Army, Pacific, as the formation of troops spanned the length of Sills Field.
The deployment was the first for the brigade, which celebrated most holidays twice before returning home.
"It was highly celebrated in the media last summer that the surge was over and the 15-month tours had ended. That was not the case for this brigade, and we need to recognize that," Mixon told the crowd.
Amidst a roar of applause and standing ovation, more than a dozen wounded warriors were invited onto the field for a close-up view as Col. Todd B. McCaffrey and Command Sgt. Maj. Karl K. Morgan uncased the brigade's colors. With this traditional ceremony, the commander and command sergeant major marked the unit's official return.
"I'm pleased to report that this brigade has completed its mission and is now fully redeployed to Schofield Barracks, successfully reintegrating into the community, and will be prepared, in time, to once again answer the call," McCaffrey said in his speech.
"Team Warrior is proud to rejoin the ranks here in Hawaii," McCaffrey said. "We all look forward to leave, yet we remain conscious of the ongoing fight and look forward to resetting this brigade and preparing, once again, to be ready to answer our nation's call when it comes again."
While deployed, "Warrior" Brigade Soldiers earned four Bronze Star Medals with the Valor device, along with 15 Army Commendation Medals with "V" device, and 35 Purple Heart Medals.
"These men have paid a price in blood and time that this brigade, our Army, and our Nation hold sacred," McCaffrey said of the wounded warriors.
McCaffrey also paid tribute to 10 Soldiers who returned to the island only in spirit. Reading aloud the names of the fallen, he said an 8-foot memorial scheduled to be dedicated at Schofield May 21 will provide a lasting reminder of their service and sacrifice.
"The memories of them buoy our resolve to serve and to commit to one another and causes larger than ourselves," McCaffrey said.
That message was well received by one family member who travelled from Phoenix, Ariz., to see the troops' return. Jack Daggett said he was at the redeployment ceremony to fulfill a promise to his son.
"He was a Ranger at 20, an airborne-qualified sergeant and team leader at 21. He has touched the lives of many here today, and he will continue to do so. He was a very fine Soldier," Daggett said.
Sgt. John K. Daggett, 21, of Phoenix, Ariz., died May 15 of wounds suffered May 1 in Baghdad, when a rocket-propelled grenade struck his vehicle.
"I'm very proud of my son, and I'm very proud to be here. I told Sgt. Daggett that I would be here, and he is with me right now in my heart," Jack Daggett said after the ceremony as he met with his son's brothers in arms.