By Tina Ray/ParaglideJuly 30, 2010
FORT BRAGG, N.C. - The plane carrying about 100 Soldiers from the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 16th Military Police Brigade touched down at Green Ramp on Pope Air Force Base just before 7 p.m., Friday. The Soldiers were redeploying to Fort Bragg following a year-long deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
One spouse waiting to see her husband was Tiffany Zehring, of Raeford, the wife of Sgt. 1st Class John Zehring, said she could not be more excited to have him home and to have the Family back together. She was joined by daughters; Madyson, 7, Hailey, 4 and Macie, 2, the girls were all dressed alike in striped dresses.
"All they've talked about is 'dad,'" said Zehring of her daughters. "The girls just want to go camping with dad."
Madyson said she planned to give her dad a lot of hugs. Hailey said she expected him to tickle and kiss them, but the girls could barely contain their excitement as they waited for the plane to land. One of the first things the Family is looking forward to is getting a puppy, Madyson said.
Beverly Stearns and her mother-in-law, Judy Stearns, traveled from Ohio to surprise their son and grandson, Capt. Chuck Stearns. Beverly said he didn't know any Family members would be at Green Ramp.
Seeing her son would be an early present, said Beverly, who celebrates her birthday Monday.
Beverly said they plan to play by ear any other celebrations, depending on her son's wishes.
Stearns stood in one final formation before being reunited with his mother and grandmother. He and fellow Soldiers listened to their commander, Col. John F. Garrity, commend their historical service in Afghanistan.
Garrity told the Soldierss that they were the first military police brigade headquarters to go to Afghanistan.
"We changed history by the way we treated terrorists," he said. "We also changed the Afghani army because we got to the root of the problem and started training privates."
The Soldiers comprised Task Force Protector, which was responsible for conducting detention operations in Parwan. They also trained the Afghan national army as correctional officers.
Shortly after Garrity's remarks, those Soldiers rushed to meet their Families.
"It's the moment I've waited for 12 months," said John Zehring, after swooping his daughters into his arms. "It feels just like I thought it would. It's like a little kid waiting for Christmas, except times that by a million."
Madyson could barely take her eyes off her father. "He looks the same," she beamed.
Then, she and her sisters asked him for chewing gum. John Zehring dug into his rucksack and found something that seemed to satisfy more than gum - Oreo cookies.
Chocolate cookies did not make the list of items Capt. Chuck Stearns said he wanted to enjoy.
"I plan to get a vehicle and go find myself a steak dinner and a tall, Irish, red beer," he said, minutes after unexpectedly reuniting with his mother and grandmother.
"I was really surprised to see them. I was totally expecting to just come, get checked in and take it easy. It was a good surprise," Stearns said.
Not only did Family members welcome the MPs, but veterans and other Soldiers showed up as well to offer support.
Until a medical discharge in January, Shahaliegh Brown had been an MP.
"When you work with these people, you want to welcome them back," Brown said. "I know I didn't get to go, but it's important that they all get to come home."
Specialist James Bethea of the 118th Military Police Company said he returned from Afghanistan over a month ago.
"It felt good to have people here when we came back from a long deployment and it's good to return the favor."