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Lancers ring in New Year at home

Soldiers celebrate return after 9-month deployment

Published: 11:05AM January 10th, 2013
Lancers  ring in New Year at home

Sgt. Mark A. Cloutier

Currents of Soldiers and Family members rush together as the curtain rises in the gymnasium of Wilson Sports and Fitness Center, ending a nine-month separation for Soldiers of 2nd Bde., 2nd Inf. Div.

Returning from a nine-month deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, approximately 300 Soldiers from the 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division made it home to their loved ones, just in time for the New Year. Having served as part of the regular rotation of forces in Afghanistan, members of the “Lancer Brigade” returned Dec. 30, to a late-night gathering of friends and Family at Wilson Sports and Fitness Center, Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

After hours of waiting, the gymnasium full of restless bodies and tired eyes, came to full attention at the anonymous shout, “They’re here!”

Tiffany Holiday and her three children had purchased a 3-by-5-foot vinyl, welcome-home banner, displaying a larger-than-life portrait of their Soldier, Sgt. 1st Class Travis Holiday — something he would easily spot amid the ocean of Family members.

With 20 years of service under his belt, Holiday was returning from his fifth combat tour, one that started just after he and his Family had arrived at JBLM.

“When we got to JBLM, I got a job and went straight to work,” Tiffany said. “That was the only way I could keep my mind from dwelling on the fact that he was leaving again.”

She shared what it took to make the emotional challenge of separation bearable during deployment.

“While he was gone, we were on the phone fairly often,” she said. “We found a smartphone application that allowed us to use our cell phones for crystal clear conversations as often as we were able. But what else helped, was that we were all able to Skype. Even when all we could see was his outline, it still made things easier.”

Though most of the holiday season had passed, for some Families, children especially, Christmas was still a buzzword — because it had been put on hold until the entire Family could be together.

Chanel Sohl, and her three young daughters, Briley, Madison and Avonlea, had held off the Christmas celebration, until Capt. Jonathan Sohl, commander of B Company, 2nd Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Inf. Div., could be home. Sohl’s parents, Lloyd and Jan Sohl, had made the 1,400-mile drive from Rapid City, S.D., to share in the reunion.

Lloyd and Jan agreed they were too thankful and proud to mind the cross-country drive. They were just happy for their son’s return.

In the five years Jonathan and Chanel have been married, they’ve moved three times and this has been their third deployment. And though any deployment can be very difficult, Chanel, said her faith was the source of strength and blessings this season.

“I owe it all to Jesus,” she said. “He has taught me so much during this deployment. He has kept us well, and he has kept us very close.”

The Sohl Family planned to celebrate Christmas the next morning, and Thanksgiving three days later — just before Lloyd and Jan turn their car toward home.

For those who made it onto the final JBLM-bound flight manifest of 2012, New Year’s Eve found them thankful, but the majority of the almost 4,000 2nd Brigade Soldiers still in Afghanistan will return in January.