Redeploying Troops Get Holiday Homecoming
(December 25, 2009)
|BALTIMORE, Dec. 23, 2009 – Two days before Christmas, the
longest line today at the airport here wasn't at a ticket
counter, or at security checkpoints. It was at the
international terminal, where hundreds of well-wishers lined
up to welcome about 150 troops home from combat deployments.
Families, veterans, beauty queens, students enjoying the
first day of their holiday vacations and even Santa Claus
began descending on the Baltimore-Washington International
Thurgood Marshall Airport in the early afternoon to greet
the arriving Air Mobility Command charter flight.
|Santa Clause joins well-wishers at Baltimore Washington International Airport Dec. 23, 2009, as they greet troops returning home from Middle East deployments just in time for the holidays.
As they waited for the troops to clear customs, the group
revved itself up, turning toward a flag just beyond a giant
Christmas tree full of blue-and-white ornaments to recite
the Pledge of Allegiance and sing the national anthem. |
Then, as the first soldier who had cleared customs stepped
into the terminal, the crowd burst into hoots and hollers.
They hoisted “Welcome Home” and “Merry Christmas” banners
and American flags high.
Hands extended to every soldier, sailor, airman and Marine,
along with expressions of welcome and thanks for their
service. Troops beamed as they pushed their luggage carts
through the gauntlet of well-wishers.
Boy Scouts and veterans helped to carry their duffle bags as
the troops worked their way through the maze of outstretched
hands – some simply to shake hands, others to offer boxes of
Girl Scout cookies, balloons or other goodies.
“It's overwhelming,” said Army Sgt. Larry Downs, a 372nd
Transportation Company soldier who was part of a 101st
Airborne Division contingent that deployed to Kuwait to ship
equipment to Afghanistan for an upcoming deployment.
“It's nice to be appreciated for what we do,” he said. “A
lot of us do it because we love it. But it's also nice to
get the appreciation, and know that people support what we
Army Pfc. Alma Aguillar, from the 101st Sustainment Brigade
at Fort Campbell, Ky., grew up in a military family and
remembers how it felt to welcome her father when he returned
home from duty overseas. Now, as she returned from her first
deployment, to Kuwait to prepare for a year-long deployment
next month to Afghanistan, she said it felt great to be on
the receiving end of the thanks.
“It's heartwarming,” she said. “I'm just glad that after all
this time, people are still out there expressing
appreciation and showing they care. That means a lot.”
|Holiday spirit and patriotism were both on full display at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport on Dec. 23, 2009, as hundreds of well-wishers gathered to welcome troops returning home from deployments just in time for the holidays.
Navy Chief Petty Officer Richard Fernandez, returning home
after nine months training Iraqi security forces in Baghdad,
said he bent down and kissed the ground when he took his
first step onto U.S. soil. Nothing, he said, had prepared
him for the patriotic outpouring of support he and his
fellow servicemembers received at BWI airport. |
“It gives me a whole new sense of what it means being in the
military, and being appreciated for what we do,” he said.
“It makes you feel like a real U.S. citizen, doing something
for your country.”
Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Edwin McBride, returning from
an eight-month deployment to Victory Base Complex in
Baghdad, said he, too, was taken off-guard by the size of
the crowd that amassed to welcome his flight.
“I expected to see maybe a couple of [Veterans of Foreign
Wars] guys, but I certainly didn't expect anything like
this,” he said.
McBride had several hours before his connecting flight to
Norfolk, Va., where he looked forward to seeing his wife and
7-year-old daughter, Emily. The homecoming was going to be
especially exciting, he said, because Emily didn't yet know
that her daddy would be home for Christmas.
“It's going to be a very, very Merry Christmas,” McBride
said, an ear-to-ear smile anticipating the reunion.
Article and photos by Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
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