By Molly Hayden, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii Public AffairsMarch 21, 2009
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii - Sarah Carnes, 3, spun around and shook her tiny hips in a dance she later revealed was her "daddy is home dance," during the "Stryke Back Bash" at the Nehelani here, March 12.
Sarah's father, Spc. John Carnes, 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment, scooped her up, flipped her upside down and bombarded her with kisses, sending the toddler into an outburst of giggles.
"It's good to be home," said Carnes.
More than 4,500 Soldiers from the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team (SBCT) were welcomed home during the redeployment ceremony at Sills Field earlier that day.
The "Stryke Back Bash" came only a few hours later and brought more than 2,000 Soldiers and family members together for a night of family fun provided by Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation (FMWR).
"We sent the Soldiers off with a party and wanted to welcome them home with one, as well," said Stacy Harding, chief recreation activities, FMWR, "to provide some well-deserved fun for everyone."
Numerous organizations, including Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers (BOSS), Army Hawaii Family Housing, Roberts Hawaii, and Sprint offered promotions and information for returning Soldiers.
Additionally, raffle prizes, including a Nintendo Wii video game system and a weekend getaway were awarded to lucky ticket holders.
Hula dancers gracefully maneuvered their way across the stage and family members played games and enjoyed free tacos courtesy of Just Tacos.
The sound of a slide guitar caught the attention of the crowd as Buck Giles played soft tunes during the opening musical act.
Throughout the night, Soldiers talked story, played card games and introduced family members to their battle buddies. Fathers danced with their daughters and husbands and wives toasted to a safe return.
"This is great for morale," said Carnes. "It's a welcome home for all of us.
"It's a chance meet other Soldiers' families that we have heard about for the last 15 months," Carnes added, "to put a face with a name."
The Dita Holifield Band took the stage next, rocking the crowd with time-honored songs that moved Soldiers and family members to their feet.
The Garth Brook's classic "Friends in Low Places" started a thousand-man sing-along. Soldiers swayed back and forth to the rhythm and sang to their hearts' content.
Soldiers of the 2nd Stryker Brigade spent the last 15 months downrange. According to many Soldiers, in that time, friendships formed, bonds strengthened, teamwork elevated and musicians were made - rock musicians to be precise.
In an abandoned warehouse located in Camp Taji, Iraq, seven Soldiers from the 556th Signal Company, 2nd SBCT, perfected their sound and formed a band, performing at numerous functions downrange.
"We are definitely a rock band with rock influences," said guitarist Staff Sgt. Corey Burke.
The band, which calls itself "Dead Reckoning," formed casually during deployment.
"We just wanted to learn how to play," said Sgt. 1st Class Tim Casper, "so we ordered some instruments, started playing whenever we could and the band was made."
Pfc. Marissa Flanigan later joined as a vocalist.
"I grew up singing gospel music," said Flanigan. "These guys have opened my ears to a new type of music I didn't even know I could sing."
The screams and applause from the crowd echoed into the night as Dead Reckoning took the stage and played an assortment of music including heavy metal, classic rock and a few original songs inspired by their experiences downrange.
Staff Sgt. Mike Billingsley and Casper held the rhythm on drums and bass, respectively; Sgt. Joseph Ray and Staff Sgt. Shawn Magone wailed on guitar; and Spc. Chad Barnette kept the songs in key as lead vocalist. Ray took to the front as the lead guitarist.
"We were able to play for a lot of Soldiers downrange," said Ray. "Now, it's our turn to show family back home what we can do."
The band took a short intermission and spectators gathered around the stage during the car giveaway sponsored by Cutter Ford. "The Price is Right" theme music played softly in the background as the five finalists spun a small, brightly colored wheel.
Each Soldier attempted to spin a total of 100 points without going over.
Pfc. Chad Hitz, 1-14th Cav. Regt., stepped up to the wheel. On his first spin, Hitz knocked out two of his four competitors with a score of 80. This score, which could not be beat, netted Hitz a new F-150 Ford truck.
Dead Reckoning took the stage once again and played to the crowd until the end of the event.
"This is a great way to settle in," said Capt. Lucas Yoho, 1-27th Inf. Regt., "to know you are back and celebrate with family and friends."
The event was sponsored by the Hale Koa Hotel, The Waterfront at Puuloa, PortaBox Storage Hawaii, Cutter Ford, Just Tacos, the University of Phoenix, Sprint, United Services Automobile Association (USAA), Roberts Hawaii, Outrigger Hotels and Resorts, Ke Ola O Pokai Resort, and Army Hawaii Family Housing.