FORT STEWART, Ga. - The first few hundred of the approximate 3,250 of 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Soldiers still remaining in Iraq returned home from their year-long Advise and Assist mission in Iraq to cheering Family Members, fellow Soldiers and friends, May 14, at Newman Fitness Center.

The first wave of 4th IBCT Soldiers advanced echelon personnel and "torch party" returned to assist in setting up operations in their brand new 4th IBCT complex. After much deserved leave to spend quality time with their Families, the Soldiers will be tasked to ensure a smooth transition for the balance of the brigade when they too redeploy home.

Although many Soldiers are still in Iraq, dozens of Vanguard Family Members of Soldiers who are still deployed came out and showed their support for the returning Soldiers whose Family Members were unable to attend the ceremony to welcome their Soldier home.

"I came here today to greet one of my husband's Soldiers whose wife is in the Dominican Republic and couldn't be here to welcome him home," said Karen Springfield. "I brought dinner for him; it's the least I could do. If I was away and I couldn't be here, I would want someone here to greet my husband and welcome him home," she added.

The sentiment of support from the Family Members of still deployed Soldiers was vast throughout the gymnasium.

"I am here today to welcome our Soldiers home," said Tamara Dupuis, whose husband awaits his turn to come home from Iraq.

For one seasoned married couple the experience of a deployment separation came late in their marriage but, early in their Army career.

"We were married 19 years before he joined the Army and left for Iraq almost immediately," said Tammy Wedeking.

After the intentionally brief speech, the zealous crowd stampeded their way out of the bleachers and onto the gymnasium floor to hug, kiss and hold their returning Soldier.

"It's great to be back home," said Specialist Jon Wedeking while he received a group hug from his wife Tammy and his daughters Kailee, 14, and Danielle, 16.