About 130 soldiers with the 3rd Infantry Division’s 1st Armor Brigade Combat Team arrived home from Afghanistan late Thursday afternoon. Many of them were coming home a few months before the end of the scheduled nine-month combat tour.
As part of a “torch” or “advon” party, troops from brigade headquarters; 5th Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment; 3rd Brigade Support Battalion; and 1st Battalion, 41st Field Artillery; marched proudly across Fort Stewart’s Cottrell Field to screams, shouts and whistles from fellow soldiers, family and friends. In fact, their shouts nearly drowned out the 3rd ID Band.
“Of course, I don’t mind,” smiled Janis Jamieson, when asked if she was glad her husband, Spc. Jeffrey Jamieson, was coming home earlier than expected. “I love the career he picked. I support him.”
The Jamieson’s 16-month-old daughter, Mia, seemed unsure what all the excitement was about or why so many people were waving American flags and “welcome home” banners. Her mom said Mia has talked to her dad a few times on Skype, and she has already learned to say “Dada” and “Mama.”
Nearby, two boys raced out onto field, waving slightly larger flags. Their mother, Jenessa Wright, said Josiah, 5, and Isaiah, 3, were excited to see their father, Staff Sgt. Keith Wright, who was coming home three months early.
“We’re elated that he’s coming home early,” Wright said. “We’re expecting our third child, so his coming home early is perfect timing. It’s God’s timing.”
Pamela Thomas, Staff Sgt. Wright’s mother, said she came from Brunswick to welcome her son. She said this was her son’s seventh deployment since he joined the Army in 1999. Wright, a chaplain’s assistant, was not due to redeploy until September, she said.
As the buses began arriving from Hunter Army Airfield, the crowds went wild. Amid all the screaming though, 4-month-old Dominic Townsend slept through the excitement. A banner taped to his stroller read, “Daddy, report to your baby!” His mother, Sheri Townsend, said her husband, Spc. Ryan Townsend, a truck driver, had asked her to meet him near the baggage area by Newman Fitness Center, rather than try to get to him in the crowds. He has not yet met his son, she said.
She said her husband was coming home two months early for what was his third, but her first deployment. He has been in the Army seven years, she added.
After marching across the field, the troops’ commander reported to Col. Scott Jackson, 3rd ID chief of staff-rear. Jackson greeted the soldiers then asked everyone to stand for the national anthem. He then officially welcomed the troops home, advising them not to rush to get behind the wheel as most have not driven a vehicle since they deployed. After everyone sang the Marne Song and the Army Song, Jackson told the families to welcome their hero.
Crowds instantly flocked onto the field, enveloping the soldiers with hugs and kisses. Edna Medina quickly sought out her daughter, Spc. Virnisha Seeger, who was also accosted by several children of a family friend.
Spc. Monica Smith found herself surrounded and hugged by her friends, Carolina Soto, Jamie Gary and Sonya Marx. She and other soldiers slowly left the field, heading for the pick-up point for the rucksacks and other baggage.
Within 30 minutes of their arrival, married soldiers were heading home with families and single soldiers were crossing Gulick Avenue with their gear, heading for the barracks.
The main body of Raider Brigade soldiers will begin redeploying in another week and continue returning through the end of June.