About 100 soldiers with the 3rd Infantry Division’s 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Armor Brigade Combat Team, redeployed from Afghanistan on Wednesday morning.
The advanced-party troops were greeted by family members, friends and fellow soldiers on Fort Stewart’s Cottrell Field. According to public-affairs officer Kevin Larson, the main body of soldiers from the “Battle Boars” will begin redeploying Oct. 19.
“We’re just so happy to have him back here again,” said Luis Ortiz Sr., father of Sgt. Luis Ortiz Jr.
Ortiz and his wife Nubia drove from Hollandale, Fla., to welcome their son home from Afghanistan. Ortiz said his 32-year-old son previously served four years in the Marine Corps and now has served four years in the Army, service that included a prior deployment to Iraq.
“He liked the Marine Corps,” the proud father said. “But he also likes the Army. He likes it here (on Fort Stewart).”
When three buses began arriving with the returning soldiers, cheers and screams from the bleachers thundered across a foggy Cottrell Field. After marching across the wet field to the reviewing stand, the soldiers were met by Col. John Hort, 3rd ID deputy commanding general-rear.
“Wow! I’ve got families behind me and heroes in front of me,” said Hort as he turned to look at the cheering crowd and then at the formation of soldiers standing at attention. “Welcome home to the greatest country in the world and the greatest state in the union.”
Hort concluded his remarks, and after everyone sang the Marne Song and the Army Song, families were invited to rush onto the soggy field to welcome home their soldiers. While some lost their shoes in the mud and a few family members slipped and fell, families found their soldiers and greeted them with hugs, kisses and tears.
“We’re so proud,” said Susan Martinez, grandmother of Pfc. Derek Southard, whom she said is a third-generation soldier. “We’re just so proud.”
Martinez explained her grandson calls her “G-Mom.” The soldier’s teary-eyed little sister, Jaylee, 9, waited for a chance to hug her big brother as his mother, Shawn Southard, embraced him. The family drove 25 hours from Colorado to welcome him home.
“It was a blast,” Southard said of his nine-month deployment, but he was speechless about his family being there Wednesday. “It’s overwhelming. That’s all I can say.”
Although the signal support specialist considered his combat experience fun, his family members said they worried a lot about him. Jaylee said she worried most every time she heard a news report about an American soldier killed in action.
“He called at 3:30 in the morning one day,” his mom said as she wiped her eyes and took a deep breath. “Getting a call that early scared me to death. But there wasn’t anything wrong. He was having a bad day and just wanted to talk to mom.”
She said she supposed now her son would want all his favorite foods, but when asked what those were, Southard again was at a loss for words. His mom gave him another big hug, and the soldier said he realized the little things he’d said he missed about “the states” were not as important as simply being back with his family.