The first of three main-body redeployments of soldiers assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 1st Armor Brigade Combat Team returned Monday to Fort Stewart. About 120 3rd Infantry Division soldiers came home to cheering family members, friends and fellow soldiers.
Two more main-body redeployments are scheduled for Saturday. According to 1st ABCT public affairs officer Sgt. Emily Knitter, Marne Division troops will return through mid-July, and the division’s headquarters battalion will be back by Aug. 1.
Despite temperatures in the mid-90s, families filled the bleachers at Cottrell Field, waving American flags, posters and banners. Parker Wells, 16 months, apparently wanted to join the bigger children on the field and play with the red, white and blue balloons tied to his stroller. His mom, Claire Wells, ran after one of the balloons he released, but decided it was too late. She and Parker attended the ceremony with Megan Dyer, a friend who waited eagerly for her husband, 1st Lt. Donald Dyer.
She carried a large poster that read, “God gave me you back after 278 days.”
“That was our wedding song, ‘God Gave Me You,’” Dyer said. “I just added the rest. He left on Sept. 18 (2012). It’s been a long time. We were only married about a year before he left.”
Dyer said her husband is a Citadel graduate and an infantry officer. This was his first deployment.
Nearby, Kim and Rodney Watson waited for their son, Spc. Mitchell Watson, and held a poster that read, “Where there’s a prayer, there’s a way. Our angel brought our hero home today.” The Watsons said they were from Tallapoosa, which is in the northwest corner of the Peach State.
“This was our son’s third deployment,” Rodney Watson said. “I hope it’s his last. I came down here when he left but couldn’t take it, so I left a couple days before he left.”
In another set of bleachers, the Allen family sat together under a large umbrella that provided shade for mom Jean, sisters Kiah and Nikki, brother Dre and sister-in-law Virginia. The Allens waited for Sgt. 1st Class Maurice Allen, whom they said had deployed more times in his 20-year career than they could remember.
The soldiers soon arrived and marched across the field to report to Col. Scott Jackson, 3rd ID chief of staff-rear. After honoring the flag while the 3rd ID band played the national anthem, a chaplain gave an invocation, and Jackson welcomed the troops home.
“We’re proud of you; your nation is proud of you,” he said. “You did a great job.”