By Tiffany Nabors, The BayonetMay 28, 2010
Rebecca White said she was shaking with nervous anticipation as she waited for the nearly 30 members of the 14th Combat Support Hospital advance party to file into Freedom Hall just after midnight May 22.
She said the return was particularly sweet for her.
"I went in for a routine MRI and found out I had kidney cancer ... about a month after (my husband) left," she said. "So, I am ecstatic that he's coming home."
SSG Brandon White, who deployed July 7 with the unit to Iraq for his third time, said he was shocked when he got the news about shocked when he got the news about his wife's illness. The couple spent countless hours communicating over the Internet and by phone.
Rebecca, on bed rest most of the deployment, said she clung to her 12-year-old daughter, Zoe, for support.
"I just tried to be as supportive as possible and do the best I could," Brandon said. "You have to stay in communication as much as possible and rely on friends down range to help you get through."
Brandon tagged along by phone to Rebecca's doctor's appointments, she said, and at Christmas she learned her cancer was in remission.
Prior to their reunion Saturday, Rebecca said thoughts of the last year left her anxious.
"In our family, a lot has changed during this past year," she said. "Sometimes when (Soldiers) come home, it's like meeting someone new."
But the couple of four years said their feelings for one another remained the same.
"It feels fantastic to be back," Brandon said. "I've been waiting a while for these hugs and kisses."
Colonel says Soldiers 'should be proud'
Like Rebecca, there were nearly 80 family members and friends watching as the group of 83 active duty, Reservists and professional medical specialists from other posts entered the room.
COL Elizabeth Johnson, 14th CSH deputy commander, welcomed the Soldiers, saying she was proud to have served with them in Iraq.
"I want to express my gratitude for all the hard work you all did down range in support of detainee health care operations," she said. "You all were a very key component to the success of that operation. Be proud of what you've done."
The unit dates back to 1942 and has participated in World War II, the Korean War and Hurricane Katrina relief efforts. The main body is scheduled to return late June.