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200 4th Brigade troops return
Specialist Justin Garcia of the 3rd Infantry Division hugs his wife after arriving home on Thursday from Iraq. - photo by By Frenchi Jones

Family members of soldiers with the 3rd Infantry Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team received a very early Christmas present Friday night.

More than 200 soldiers hit the ground running on Fort Stewart’s Cottrell Field, as brigade members continued their return home from a 14-month deployment to Iraq.

More than 350 soldiers were greeted by their families Thursday night, when the brigade’s advance party touched home.

The troops were originally scheduled to begin their returns in January.

New babies, crying wives and embracing mothers and fathers filled the arms of the troops after they anxiously waited to be released from formation.

“This was very long-awaited,” said Spc. Justin Garcia, while wiping tears from his wife’s eyes.

The best part, he said, is he gets to spend Christmas with his family.

Aleah Hansen, whose husband left shortly after their 5-month-old son was born, said she looks forward to getting some help at home.

“It’s been hard,” she said. “This has been his third deployment, and my first.”

Husband Jason Hansen, a sergeant, said bring on the diapers.

“I just want to go home and spend as much time with my son as I possibly can,” he said.

The fourth brigade, which left Fort Stewart in August of 2007, was the last brigade to leave during the post’s most recent deployment to Iraq.

In Iraq, the soldiers were responsible for blocking weapons from entering Baghdad, protecting the local population and training Iraqi security forces.

Fourth brigade members will continue to return home over the next few weeks. Seven flights are scheduled before Dec. 10.

According to Susan Phillips, a Fort Stewart spokesperson, there is no word yet as to when the last flight will arrive.

“We’re only notified of six flights at a time, and they don’t come in every day,” she wrote in an e-mail. “There are 4,500 soldiers assigned to (the 4th Brigade Combat Team), and they will all be home by Christmas.”

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