KILLEEN, Texas - Just over nine-months ago a small group of Army Reserve Soldiers left their civilian jobs, families and friends behind to go forward and fight in the war on terror in various locations throughout the middle-eastern theater of operations.
The team of twelve Soldiers, assigned to Detachment 1, 335th Signal Command (Theater), deployed last year with a mission of providing communications support to a special operations joint task force, as part of Operation Inherent Resolve.
Now, after successfully completing their mission and enduring a tiresome 15-hour return flight across multiple time zones, the weary warfighters put their boots back on American soil here June 28.
As they walked off the plane and into the small airport they were welcomed with cheers and applause from various members of the command, including Col. Todd Peterson, force management director and acting G-3 operations officer, 335th SC (T), and Command Sgt. Maj. Ronnie Farmer, command sergeant major, 335th SC (T).
After the warm welcome they retrieved their belongings, and were ushered to a quiet area for a short welcome home warrior citizen ceremony.
The ceremony is part of the Welcome Home Warrior Program designed to recognize each Army Reserve Soldier who has served in the Global War on Terrorism. The program's goal is to provide an appropriate, timely and enduring memento to Soldiers and their families to convey in a small way the nation's gratitude for their selfless service and sacrifice.
"We want to convey on behalf of Maj. Gen. Pete Bosse, commanding general, 335th Signal Command (Theater) and the leadership of the 335th just how much we appreciate you supporting this mission," said Peterson. "I want to thank you for your support, your commitment and your dedication."
Peterson also asked the Soldiers to remember those who supported them on their deployment. "I want you to go home and thank your family for supporting you and allowing you to go on this mission," he said. "Also let your civilian employers know how grateful we are that they allowed you to go forward."
Once Peterson has finished speaking, Farmer addressed the Soldiers. "I want to thank you for your service and your sacrifice," he said. "I'm proud of each and every one of you and I can't thank you enough for what you have done and what you have accomplished over the last several months that you've been gone. You have really, truly done an amazing job."
One of the returning Soldiers was Staff Sgt. Lewis Vaughn, a native of North Augusta, South Carolina, who performed duties as the noncommissioned officer-in-charge of the service desk during the deployment. "This was a good deployment," he said. "It was a great experience working with our special forces and seeing how all the moving parts are put into place. I had also never run a help desk before, so this was definitely a career building experience and it took me out of my comfort zone. Overall, it was a great time, but I'm glad I'm back."
The ceremony concluded with Peterson presenting each Soldier with an American flag encased in a wooden display and engraved with their names.
With the deployment now behind them, the group will spend a few days at Fort Hood completing the redeployment and reintegration process before returning to their homes and families.
"Thank you for everything you do," concluded Peterson. "I'm glad you all made it home safely, and I want to wish you all many more years in the Army Reserve."