By Sgt. Robert Schaffner Jr., 4th IBCT, 3rd ID Public AffairsJuly 29, 2010
FORT STEWART, Ga. - A year ago, the 293rd Military Police Company, 385th MP Battalion, 3rd Infantry Division, set out on a mission to Afghanistan to help train the Afghani armed forces and police. They returned home with honor and a hero's welcome from a thunderous cheering crowd of flag-waving Family Members, Soldiers and well wishers, July 21.
Before the returning Soldiers arrived at Cottrell Field, emotions and anxiety ran high among the hundreds of people waiting to welcome the Soldiers home.
"I've got butterflies in my tummy," said Rachelle Reimondo, wife of Spc. Randy Reimondo. "I am so proud of him, and I am glad it's over."
Hundreds of people who turned out for the welcome home ceremony agreed with Rachelle's feelings of joy, anxiety and relief.
"I am excited and very happy that he is coming home," said Holly Ford, wife of Spc. Cody Ford. "I am very proud of him and proud of all of our heroes, and I'm happy to have them home and safe."
For one child, she wasn't all that clear as to what was about to happen.
"She thought we were going to go talk to daddy through Skype on the computer," said Liz Prendergast wife of Spc. Robert Prendergast, referring to their two-year-old daughter Charlee. "It's been too long; we're ready for him to be home."
Unfortunately, not all of the Soldiers returning home were in attendance at Cottrell Field, which is lined by 433 Eastern Redbud trees, each planted to memorialize every Soldier of the 3rd ID, Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield, and attached units who has been killed in Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom.
Staff Sergeant Christopher Rudzinski, 28, of the 293rd MP Co., was killed by enemy forces near Kandahar, Afghanistan, Oct. 16, 2009, when his vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device. Staff Sergeant Rudzinski became the 421st to be memorialized at Warriors Walk.
Although Staff Sgt. Rudzinski was absent from the formation, he was not forgotten at the welcome home ceremony.
"We wanted to be here to say 'thank you,' thank you for your service and I am glad you're home," said Col. (Ret.) Michael Rudzinski, father of Staff Sgt Rudzinski, accompanied by his wife, Natalie, Staff Sgt. Rudzinski's mother.
Before the crowd could greet the Soldiers on the field, there was a ceremony and a few brief remarks made to the audience and Soldiers.
"It took three MP companies to replace these guys," said Col. Mary Maier, 16th Military Police Brigade commander-rear, as she stood on the field between the packed bleachers of an anxious crowd and formed up Soldiers on the field as she addressed the crowd and Soldiers. "You did an awesome job and can measure your success by your daily missions."
After the intentionally brief speech, the zealous crowd stampeded their way onto the field to hug, kiss and hold their retuning Soldier.
"Oh, my God, I feel so much better (now that) he's home," said Christina Comstock, wife of Sgt. Jerry Comstock, as she held onto her husband. "I am just so relieved."