FORT HOOD, Texas (Dec. 28, 2011) -- Hundreds of family members and friends of Soldiers from the 3rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, braved near-freezing temperatures and a steady downpour at the division parade field to welcome 176 troops to their Central Texas homes here, Dec. 24.

Members of the Greywolf Brigade were the last troops to cross the border of Iraq into Kuwait on their way home. The cold, wet weather didn't dampen spirits of the families and friends on hand to welcome their loved ones home for Christmas.

"This is nothing," said Patti Garrick, the mother of Spc. Matt Garrick who travelled from Hastings, Minn., to meet her son.

"We haven't been counting down to Christmas, we've been counting down to Texas," she added. "We almost forgot it's Christmas."

Garrick said she planned to spend Christmas in Texas with her son and then take him home to Minnesota.

Throughout the week leading up to the Soldiers' Christmas Eve return, families were unsure whether their loved ones would make it home on time for the holiday season.

"It's been a roller coaster week," said Kristen Borders, wife of Staff Sgt. Christopher Borders. Kristen had the couple's four children in tow for the ceremony: Kayla, 14; Jenna, 9; Noah, 4; and Simon, 1. All of them huddled together under covered bleachers as they awaited the return of their Soldier.

When the announcement was made that the aircraft had landed at Robert Gray Army Airfield, many families and friends clustered around video screens showing the troops entering the passenger terminal. Later, a cheer went up as another announcement noted the buses had departed the airfield.

When they arrived at Cooper Field, the rain began to fall harder as Santa Claus and an elf assistant led the Soldiers off the buses. A steady chant of "Move that bus!" rose among the bleachers. When the buses moved on, a formation of troops, led by Lt. Col. Jack E. Vantress, marched across the field and onto the division patch in the center of the parade field. There, the battalion commander uncased his unit's colors, officially marking their return to Fort Hood.

Following brief welcoming remarks from Col. Philip Battaglia, the division's rear detachment commander, released the families and friends to reunite with their loved ones on the parade field.

"This is absolutely the best Christmas present anyone could ask for," Battaglia said as the Soldiers were swarmed with hugs and kisses on the parade field.

Kristen's eyes met her husband's as she maneuvered to get herself, four kids and a stroller onto the wet field. The pair embraced immediately.

"Having him back is awesome," she said. "I'm on a high of highs right now."

"I didn't know if I'd make it back for Christmas," Christopher said with his family gathered by his side. "This has been a storybook ending."

Rain continued to fall as families and friends led their Soldiers away from the parade field and home for the holidays.

"Rain or shine," Garrick said, "it's a happy day."