Nearly a company of soldiers with the 385th Military Police Battalion returned home late Wednesday to a cheering crowd of family members, friends and fellow soldiers.
The 100 MPs and support personnel had served 12 months in Afghanistan’s Kandahar Province. They had deployed before a new nine-month combat tour rule.
Family members began arriving at Fort Stewart’s Newman Fitness Center before 10 p.m., many with sleepy children in their arms. Nearly all carried signs and banners that welcomed home their hero.
Amanda Voss had a front row seat on the bleachers, but she had her hands full with three children who were staying up long after bedtime. Logan, 8, was sleeping with his head in mama’s lap, while Alexis, 5, was curled up on the floor at her feet. Three-year-old Cable was asleep next to her, using his sister as his pillow.
“They’ll wake up when my husband gets here,” Voss said, referring to Spc. Joshua Voss. “I’ll let them sleep until then.”
It was a wonder they could sleep. A roar of voices filled the gym. The 3rd Infantry Division Band played song after song.
Motivational speakers worked the crowd like a pep rally, frequently taking up microphones to announce where loved ones were en route from Hunter Army Airfield to Stewart.
Just before midnight, the doors opened, soldiers marched in and the crowd went wild. The unit formed up, centered on 3rd ID and Stewart-Hunter Commander Maj. Gen. Robert “Abe” Abrams and 3rd ID Command Sgt. Maj. Edd Watson.
After the national anthem, the Marne commander welcomed the soldiers home and thanked them. Everyone sang the Dog Face Soldier Song and the Army Song, then Abrams released the troops to their families. An enthusiastic wave of well-wishers swept from the bleachers onto the gym floor.
Spc. Michael Pope’s 6-year-old daughter Macy was first to jump in his arms, crying as she delivered a year’s worth of hugs and kisses. His son Keegan, 5, was next. The soldier then kissed his wife Ravan before taking up 5-month-old Makenzi. Ravan Pope said he had been home just long enough to see her born.
“It’s awesome to finally have him back,” she said. “If it had been up to me, he’d have never left.”
Pope said he was a truck driver, which he admitted is one of the most hazardous jobs now, given the frequency of roadside bombs and small arms ambushes.
“We didn’t get fired on, and no one hit any IEDs the whole year,” Pope said. “We were lucky. It’s good to be home now, though.”