By Jennifer CaprioliFebruary 17, 2011
FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- One hundred forty-nine Fort Drum Soldiers from 1st Brigade Combat Team received a warm welcome home from Family Members and friends Feb. 12 after serving a yearlong tour in Afghanistan.
As Soldiers marched through the doors of the gym, they were greeted by smiling, yet tearful faces of their loved ones.
Col. Paul Walter, Mission Support Element G-3 deputy, spoke briefly to the crowd, welcoming the Soldiers home and noting how proud the Fort Drum community is for their sacrifice. The crowd and Soldiers sounded their concurrences with a reply of clapping, cheering, whistling and a few loud, strong "hooahs."
After much anticipation, the Soldiers were released to their loved ones, sounding a chaotic, yet, sweet symphony of clamor throughout the gym.
For some Soldiers, it was the second or even first time they were given the chance to hold their children, who had been born during the deployment. Little fingers reached out, rediscovering their parents, whom they only recognized from photos and choppy Skype chatting sessions.
Danielle Felegie, wife of Spc. Keith Felegie, 1st Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment, said although she was excited to have her husband home, she also was nervous about having to learn to share 6-month-old Savanah, who was born while Felegie was home on leave.
"I think the biggest challenge is (going to be) resituating with the baby," she said, noting it might be difficult learning how to be a Family.
Although it was the first time the couple had been apart for a long period of time, they chose to not make use of video chatting programs, so the only visual contact they had was through a few photographs here and there.
Others, such as Spc. Angel Belford, 10th Brigade Support Battalion, and her Family, took full advantage of various technological tools during the deployment. Belford's mother, Kristine, and boyfriend, Spc. John Stout, praised the fact that although they couldn't physically touch her, they were ecstatic that they able to see her during her time away.
But at the end of the ceremony, whether or not the returning Soldiers were able to see their loved ones over the past year did not seem to matter to most of them. All that seemed to matter was that Soldiers were finally able to feel the warmth and love of their Families' long-awaited embraces.