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Troop welcomes continue
Much of 3rd ID redeploying to Stewart
A sergeants gets hug on his return to Fort Stewart. - photo by Photo by Denise Etheridge
“You had me at hello,” could have been the catchphrase of the day when about 150 soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Division’s 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team were welcomed home Friday morning on Fort Stewart’s Cottrell Field. Families tried to wait patiently for the troops’ buses to arrive from the airport, despite a nearly two-hour delay.
Most 2nd Brigade troops have returned from Iraq during the past two weeks. The 3rd ID began its deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and finished its mission under Operation New Dawn. Installation officials estimate close to 5,000 troops have redeployed. The brigade’s “trail party” is expected to arrive tonight and tomorrow, along with the first of the division’s Special Troops Battalion and more Special Troops Battalion soldiers are scheduled to redeploy later this week.
The 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team will redeploy beginning in December, and the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team will return home next July. For updates on welcome home ceremony time changes visit
Although most troops’ loved ones say they are proud of their soldiers’ service, some military family members agreed the hardest aspect of a deployment is the “time lost” when families are separated.
Letasha Burdette’s husband, Spc. John Burdette, deployed just after his first child, also named John, was born. The baby is now 11 months old.
“He crawled (to his daddy) in July,” Burdette said, recalling how her son and husband bonded during a mid-tour leave. “I’m not sure how he (the baby) will react now.”
She said her church family helped support her as a “single” parent during her husband’s deployment.
Other young mothers waited in the stands, feeding their children Pop-Tarts and other breakfast snack foods to tide them over until their fathers arrived.
“We’re going to go home and eat breakfast as a family for the first time in a year,” Whitney Dickens said. Dickens said she missed having “an extra pair of hands” at home.
She and fellow 2nd Brigade spouse Audrey Jones said they helped support each other while their husbands, Spc. Daniel Dickens and Sgt. Adrian Jones, were deployed this year. The Dickens’s have a daughter, Elizabeth, 16 months, and a son, Matthew, 5. The Jones’s have a son, Christopher, 4.
Audrey Jones said her little boy asked her this morning if his father could “hook up the X-Box” as soon as he got home. This was the Jones family’s first deployment.
Jim and Jeannie Sursely drove up from Apopka, Fla., to welcome home their son-in-law Sgt. Rob Sharkey from his third deployment. The couple wore matching green T-shirts with their son-in-law’s name emblazoned above a shark’s silhouette.
Jim Sursely, a disabled veteran, served and was seriously wounded in the Vietnam War. “I stepped on a land mine on Jan. 11, 1969,” Sursely recalled. He said the Vietnam War “wore out” the American public because it went on for so long. “America struggled with that one really bad,” Sursely said.
The seasoned veteran said multiple deployments have challenged today’s young soldiers.
“It takes a toll on the individual psyche,” he said.
Sharkey’s wife, Mary Sharkey, said this deployment was harder than the first deployment she experienced with her husband.
“We were first-time parents; I had to do a lot of it alone,” she explained. “Sometimes it was easy, sometimes it was hard. My son was 5 months old when his dad left. He is walking and starting to talk now. We’re going to do as many family things as we can to make up for time lost.”
Sgt. Noed Revilla tightly held his 2-year-old daughter, Eva, just minutes after marching onto Cottrell Field.
“She’s changed so much,” Revilla said, soaking in his child’s sweet presence. “I missed Christmas, I missed her birthday. She’s a lot different from the last time I saw her.”
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