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Arrowhead Soldiers home after Afghan deployment

Family, friends greet first wave at welcome ceremony

Published: 12:29PM November 1st, 2012
20121026-A-3103P-004

Staff Sgt. Antwaun J. Parrish

Spc. Jessie Paquin gets a kiss from his wife, Kylie, during a redeployment ceremony, Oct. 26.

With several ranks of tan boots reflected against the glossy gym floor, Family members who had waited for months to see their Soldiers began to scream, knowing they could soon embrace them.

More than 100 Arrowhead Soldiers assigned to 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division returned from Afghanistan. Their Families and other members of the Arrowhead Brigade welcomed the Soldiers, Oct. 26, at Wilson Sports and Fitness Center, Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

The blue curtain went up, revealing the Soldiers in camouflage uniforms, and Family members made even more noise, waving colorful welcome signs.

“It’s been an emotional rollercaster ride because the dates of him returning kept changing,” said Cheri Robitaille, mother of Staff Sgt. Brian Robitaille, 1st Battalion, 37th Field Artillery Regiment. “I never want to miss a homecoming; it’s exhilarating to see him come in. I just can’t wait to give my son a hug.”

This was Robitaille’s third time welcoming her son home from a deployment. Her son smiled brightly as he embraced his mom after the formation was dismissed.

“It feels excellent being home,” Robitaille said. “We’ve been around our brothers- and sisters-in-arms for the entire deployment, but it feels good to see Family again.”

Cheri has two sons in the Army. She smiled, remembering a picture her son sent her when he first arrived to Afghanistan of Brian arriving to greet his brother who was leaving to return to the states. She said that she has the same concerns that most moms have when their children leave for combat.

“When they leave I always worry,” she said. Cheri had traveled to JBLM from San Diego. “I’ve done this a few times, but it still helps to have support groups with other parents and spouses.”

Robitaille was promoted while deployed and plans to live off post. His mom is excited to help him with the move and happy to spend some quality time with him.

“I can’t wait to get into civilian clothes,” Robitaille said.

Sarah O’hern placed a bold yellow sign adorned with flowers in front of her baby’s stroller that read, “My daddy had to go and fight but now he’s back to hold me tight.”

Specialist Corey O’hern has been married for two years and his daughter was 2 months old when he left. Now, seven months later, he’s back to spend time with her and his wife.

Sarah admits that life without her husband was hard to deal with at times, but she did her best to stay occupied.

“I moved back to Huntsville, Ala.,” Sarah said. “I worked out, took care of our daughter and traveled to visit Family. We kept in touch through Skype and Facebook. It’s been a rough road but we made it through.”

Sarah said that along with not being able to talk to her husband some days, she said the next hardest thing about the deployment was dealing with their daughter’s teething.

“When they were on blackout I would think the worst and my heart would drop,” Sarah said. “I would have to remember to calm myself down. Also in the last three months my daughter has had five teeth come in. Dealing with that alone is enough to break you.”

Sarah worried that it would be awkward seeing him and wondered if he would like the new adjustments the Family had made.

“I just wonder if he’s going to be the same person,” Sarah said. “I’ve moved into a new house and decorated it the way I like, so I’m just wondering if he will.”

Once he was dismissed from formation, the family reunion was almost complete.

“I am excited to see my other child, our dog Stryker,” O’hern said.

For Kylie Paquin, adjusting to Army life and a deployment was tough. Her husband, Spc. Jessie Paquin, has been in the Army for five years and returned from his second deployment.

“The separation alone was hard to get through,” Paquin said. “I’m not used to being alone all the time.”

Although she was anxious to see her husband, she felt sorry for other spouses who have no one coming home to them.

“I’m excited and sad,” Kylie said. “I know some of the people he went with aren’t coming back, and some of them were his friends.”

Kylie also communicated through Skype with her husband and talked on the phone with him as often as possible. Even though she spoke with him frequently, she admits she was always on edge.

“I will stay calmer next time,” Kylie said. “It’s just tough when they don’t call.”

Kylie and her husband plan to have dinner at the Space Needle in Seattle for their one-year anniversary, which was a week and a half ago. Now finally the wait was over.

When the formation was dismissed Kylie scrambled through the tangle of other Families and found her husband, who grabbed her and gave her a long overdue kiss.