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Families and friends eagerly awaited with open arms and anxious smiles as Soldiers returning from combat made their way into Wilson Sports and Fitness Center, Joint Base Lewis-McChord Lewis North, for a special holiday welcome home ceremony Sunday.
The return of more than 280 Soldiers of the 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division from Afghanistan proved to be a special gift to those Family members at JBLM.
Valerie Kagan and her son, Sean, eagerly waited for their holiday gift, Sgt. 1st Class Jeremy Kagan, 2nd Bde., 2nd Inf. Div., to finally come home.
This was a special surprise that we were not expecting, Kagan said. Just having him home is a gift that we couldnt be more thankful for. We had planned on just waiting and having Christmas wait for him. It wouldnt be the first time that we changed the calendar to suit us.
Before the Soldiers could scatter to their awaiting Family members, Col. Ken Kamper, commander, 17th Fires Brigade, congratulated the returning members of the Lancer Brigade.
To the Soldiers just returned, we are proud of you, proud of each and every one of you, Kamper said. Lancers are protectors, men and women of the Army. We are proud of everything you did. You made a difference and we are glad youre home.
Kamper did not forget those who supported their Soldiers from home.
We are proud of each and every one of the Family members, loved ones and friends who are here today, Kamper said. It has been a tough nine and 10 months.
He called attention to the ways Soldiers stayed in touch with their Families during the deployment, with resources like the USO, enabling connections between service members in a combat zone and their loved ones at home.
The USO was doing a read-a-book on DVDs, so my husband read a few of those for Sean, and Sean was able to watch him read books before bed every night. That was very helpful, Kagan said. We had also done a couple record-a-story books, which had been our sons favorite toys.
Some returning Soldiers had new babies to meet in person for the first time.
It means everything to be home for the holidays. Its amazing, said Spc. Jonathon Molina, 2nd Battalion, 17th Field Artillery Regiment, who had a new daughter to get to know. I had seen her first steps, her first words on Skype. So now Ill be able to see her do everything in person.
Sundays was the first group of Lancer Soldiers returning to JBLM from Afghanistan; the rest will return and be reunited with their Families after the New Year.