Approximately 200 Soldiers from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 555th Engineer Brigade, 7th Infantry Division, and the advance party from the 864th Engineer Battalion, returned home to Joint Base Lewis-McChord Oct. 4, after a nine-month deployment to Afghanistan.
While deployed, the 555th Engr. Bde. supported Operation Enduring Freedom by serving as a member of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force.
Family and friends waited at Wilson Sports and Fitness Center on Lewis North while their Soldiers turned in weapons at McChord Field.
An audio-visual linkup with cameras at the airfield allowed the crowd to watch the Soldiers as they stepped off their plane. Family members cheered as they saw their loved ones faces. But although the troops had finally returned, reuniting with their loved ones awaited further administrative processing and the short bus ride from McChord Field to the fitness center.
It is beyond words how I feel right now; our family is finally going to be complete and we can get back to a normal routine, said Christina Pride, wife of Capt. Matthew Pride, commander, Headquarters and Headquarters Company. Our kids will finally have their father and playmate back.
Finally, the long-awaited announcement came over the public address system: the Soldiers were at the gates and would be arriving in minutes.
Amanda and her 1-year-old daughter, Sophia, anxiously waited to welcome home her husband, Pfc. Alexander Avila, HHC, 555th Engr. Bde. after months apart.
Its been really hard; this is our first deployment and our first child, Avila said. When he left she was only 3 months old and it was the worst feeling. I was always worried about him and now I dont have to be anymore because hes back home.
When the music concluded, the Soldiers marched into the gym and formed up behind a large curtain separating them from their loved ones. Everyone in the crowd stood and cheered.
Before the Soldiers scattered to their awaiting family members, Col. Nicholas Katers, commander, 555th Engineer Bde., welcomed the returning Soldiers. His mercifully short speech ended with the command: Dismissed.
Family members rushed from the stands to welcome their Soldiers home. Children were hoisted into their parents arms, husbands kissed wives, and siblings, in-laws, and friends were finally together at last.
Amanda Pride ran to her husband and gave him a kiss she had been waiting nine months to give.