LAKEWOOD, Wash. - There were smiles on the faces of the Soldiers and leaders from the 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division "Raiders" as they greeted their Adopt-A-Company partners at a social Sept. 23 at the Lakewood City Hall.

The social, hosted by the Raider Brigade, was a way to thank organizations from Lakewood and the surrounding area for their support of the companies within the brigade during the unit's year-long deployment to Iraq.

"This Adopt-A-Company program was an excellent way to connect with this amazing brigade," said Lakewood Mayor Douglas Richardson. "It was a very successful model of how a community and a unit should work together."

However, the event was more than just about recognizing the support of the Lakewood community partners, as the auditorium filled with applause and cheers welcoming home members of the brigade.

"Thank you for the warm welcome," said Col. John Norris, the brigade commander. "We couldn't have asked for a better community than this one."

He expressed gratitude to the community for its unwavering support, explaining that it would take the whole afternoon to list all the accomplishments of Lakewood organizations supporting the brigade.

Following the commander's remarks, a video presentation was given, showing some of the highlights of the brigade's deployment.

"It was very humbling to hear and see on the video just a piece of what this unit did over there," said June Stacey-Clemons, head of student services at Clover Park Technical College. "They were thanking us for our support when it is really these guys who have sacrificed so much."

Norris and Command Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey Huggins, the brigade command sergeant major, presented organizations that supported the Raider Brigade certificates of appreciation, along with a photographs of Strykers crossing the Iraqi border into Kuwait. In the photo was a sign showing the name of the final phase line of the brigade's tactical road march out of Iraq: Phase Line Lakewood - named in honor of its community partners back home.

Many units within the brigade communicated consistently with their organization over the course of the deployment.

"We had an excellent relationship with our organization because we were communicating at least once a month with them," said Capt. Chris Conner, C Company, 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment. "We would send updates about us and they would do the same."

He added that his Soldiers really enjoyed receiving letters and packages from their partners in Lakewood.

Not only did the Soldiers downrange like the program, but the Soldiers' families experienced the generosity of the community as well.

"They gave about a dozen baby starter baskets to new mothers in the unit," Conner said. "The baskets had everything from diapers to food."

The importance of this relationship between military and community, and the purpose of maintaining it long after a unit returns from deployment cannot be overstated.

"This is an incredible program that brought together a combat brigade, their families, and this community," Norris said. "We have enjoyed the relationship over the course of the deployment... we hope to maintain the closeness with this community."

Specialist Luisito Brooks is assigned to 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. This story appeared in Joint Base Lewis-McChord's weekly newspaper, the Northwest Guardian.