The trail party for the 1st Armor Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division returned Wednesday afternoon to Fort Stewart, where family, friends and fellow soldiers waited eagerly in the hot sun to welcome them home.
Upon reporting to 3rd ID Chief of Staff-Rear Col. Scott Jackson, 1st ABCT Commander Col. James Crider and Commander Sgt. Maj. Herbert Kirkover, the soldiers uncased the brigade’s colors, symbolizing the Raider Brigade’s return. At that time, Lt. Col. Jason Garkey and Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Henle, 1-3 Brigade Special Troops Battalion, also uncased their battalion’s colors.
The 1st ABCT, which began redeploying from Afghanistan last month, still is awaiting the return of one battalion. The 3rd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment deployed after the rest of the brigade and served in a different area downrange. It is schedule to redeploy this weekend.
“Every homecoming is a great day,” said Jill Crider, wife of the brigade commander. “This being the trail party, they’ll uncase their colors when they arrive, officially declaring they’re home.”
Having experienced several deployments and redeployments during her husband’s career, she said she understood family members’ excitement as they waited for their loved ones to march across Cottrell Field. She laughed as she described the stampede that occurs when families are told they can charge the field and find their heroes.
The Dekrakers came from Cadillac, Mich., to see Staff Sgt. Adam Dekraker. Each member of the family and Dekraker’s girlfriend, Victoria Long, wore Superman T-shirts. Dekraker’s father Mitch, mom Sally, twin sisters Jenny and Jamie, and niece Hannah Bergquist eagerly waited to welcome home their superhero.
Children of all ages ran onto the field, waving tiny American flags, the hot Georgia sun apparently no problem for them. Older children, like Zora McCain, waved handmade American flag posters.
Nearby, 7-month-old Molly Reed sat in her stroller with a poster that read, “Hi, Daddy. I’m Molly.”
“She was born about a month after her dad (Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Reed) left,” said Victoria Reed, the child’s mother. “She’ll soon be 7 months old.”
When Dad finally crossed the field, it was his other daughter, Julie, who raced to his side. Reed’s wife said this was his fifth deployment.
Patricia Wadrett waited patiently in the bleachers for her daughter, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Michelle Wadrett. Her grand-nephew, Bryce Wadrett, 4, wanted to join the other children playing on the field, but instead stayed by his great-aunt’s side until his Aunt Michelle arrived.
Melia Pinckney tried to stay in the shade as much as possible until the buses arrived. She waived a large poster welcoming home her friend, Capt. Lareshia Poe, whom she said was returning from her third deployment.
“It’s great,” she said. “I get my friend back.”
As 107 soldiers marched across the field, family members, friends and fellow soldiers screamed and whistled. They quieted down, though, for the uncasing ceremony. Afterward, Jackson welcomed the troops and congratulated them on the completion of their deployment. Following the national anthem, the crowd sang the Marne and Army song. Jackson then gave the soldiers permission to reunite with their loved ones.