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Tears of joy at Fort Huachuca as soldiers, families reunite
Sierra Vista Herald.com ^ | Bill Hess

Posted on 05/13/2006 8:58:05 AM PDT by SandRat

FORT HUACHUCA — The side door of the Barnes Field House was about to be opened by two soldiers when “Who Let the Dogs Out” began to play over a loudspeaker in the gym.

For those sitting in the bleachers, it was a sign that the cable dogs of the 69th Signal Company were about to enter. Family and friends of the 142 men and women of the unit would soon reunite, ending a yearlong deployment of the soldiers. As the GIs entered the gym to some of the song’s “woof, woof, woof” words, those in the bleachers were on their feet, cheering, applauding and crying. Signs saying “Welcome Home Daddy,” “Welcome Back,” “We Missed You” were held over heads, as two soldiers emptied large plastic bags of balloons on the entering soldiers.

Youngster Nelson Aponte Jr. wore a desert camouflage uniform made by his mother. The honorary specialist — his father Nelson is a specialist — had a name tag, U.S. Army and 11th Signal Brigade patch sewn on the uniform in the appropriate places.

“He’s a smaller version of me,” his dad said after the welcome home ceremony ended.

His wife, Margie, beamed as father and son embraced.

But before the hugs and kisses, the soldiers were treated to sights of American flags being waved, from small ones held by children to large ones on poles that would have been hung outside a home.

The tired returning soldiers — their flight from Kuwait to Fort Huachuca, with stops, took 21 hours and 15 minutes — perked up, with some pointing and waving at family members and friends.

The official ceremony was mercifully short.

Families and friends had been in the gym waiting for nearly three hours.

The chartered airplane landed 10 minutes before 8 p.m., but the soldiers would not arrive at the facility for more than 90 minutes after deplaning.

They had to check their weapons in, have their luggage sniffed by a military working dog from the 18th Military Police Detachment and do a few other administrative chores before being transported from Libby Army Airfield to the Barnes Field House.

As the crowd of a couple hundred waited, children took the opportunity to run on the gym floor, some using balloons as balls to play soccer and volleyball.

Once the covering over the wood floor is removed this weekend, the gym will return to a sports venue as the site of the All Armed Forces Volleyball Championship and next month the area will be where the international military volleyball tournament will be held, involving teams from nine countries.

The 36th U.S. Army Band played the national anthem as Aponte Jr. saluted. A prayer was said, and then came the speeches.

Col. Michael Yarmie, commander of the 11th Signal Brigade, said the unit’s training ensured their safe return to the fort.

“For the past 12 months they worked hard to support Operation Iraqi Freedom,” the colonel said, noting the soldiers installed more than 1.9 million feet of cable during their deployment.

But Thursday night wasn’t the time for long speeches, he said. It was the time for soldiers and their families to reconnect as soon as possible.

Network Enterprise Technology Command’s Chief of Staff Col. Mary Beth Shively spoke after Yarmie.

“Welcome home. Thank you for all you have done. We’re so proud of you,” she told the soldiers.

Then came the order the soldiers were waiting for: “Dismissed.”

While the band was supposed to play the Signal Corps March and the Army Song, the bleachers quickly emptied, the soldiers broke rank and there were collisions of people, leading to the foregoing of the two groups.

Some of the families ended back in the bleachers, like that of Sgt. Michael Lopez.

The tearful noncommissoned officer hugged his children, Alexis and Nicholas, as his wife Lizette looked on.

Alexis succinctly summed up her father’s departure in May 2005.

“When my daddy left I was in first grade,” she said holding up a finger, the universal sign for one, as a big smile broke out on the sergeant’s face.

The gym quickly emptied as married soldiers and their families departed and some single GIs stood in one more line — to get keys for their rooms in the barracks.

Outside one soldier, his duffel bag on his back and holding other luggage was waiting. “Waiting for my fiancee,” he said. “Here she comes.”

There was no time to get his name and rank. He quickly got into the car and off they went.

SENIOR REPORTER Bill Hess can be reached at 515-4615 or by e-mail at bill.hess@svherald.com.


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Foreign Affairs; US: Arizona; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: families; fort; forthuachuca; huachuca; iraq; joy; reunite; soldiers; tears; welcomehome
A tearful Sgt. Micheal Lopez gets a hug from his daughter Alexis, 7, as he reaches out for his son Nicolas, 21 months old, while his wife Lizette lovingly looks on at Barnes Field House on Thursday night. Lopez and his comrades with the 69th Signal Company returned to Fort Huachuca after being in Iraq for a year. (Mark Levy-Herald/Review)
1 posted on 05/13/2006 8:58:08 AM PDT by SandRat
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To: 2LT Radix jr; 68-69TonkinGulfYachtClub; 80 Square Miles; A Ruckus of Dogs; acad1228; AirForceMom; ..


WOO-HOO!!!!

2 posted on 05/13/2006 8:59:00 AM PDT by SandRat (Duty, Honor, Country. What else needs to be said?)
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To: SandRat

Great story. Now all they have to deal with is the massive flow of illegal aliens across the Fort. That Fort butts up on the Mexican border and it is famous for being a transit point for illegal aliens. Nothing better illustrates our lack of political will in securing our borders than the failure in perimeter security down there.


3 posted on 05/13/2006 9:00:30 AM PDT by LSUfan
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To: LSUfan
Now all they have to deal with is the massive flow of illegal aliens across the Fort.

More proof that every thread is an immigration thread.

4 posted on 05/13/2006 9:02:21 AM PDT by Dog Gone
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To: SandRat

Huachuca ! ! (dependent 79-81)


5 posted on 05/13/2006 9:02:41 AM PDT by ▀udda▀udd (7 days - 7 ways Guero ╗ with a floating, shifting, ever changing persona....)
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To: SandRat
But Thursday night wasn't the time for long speeches, he said. It was the time for soldiers and their families to reconnect as soon as possible.

Nice double entendre, Colonel! ;^)

6 posted on 05/13/2006 9:14:32 AM PDT by DTogo (I haven't left the GOP, the GOP left me.)
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To: SandRat

BTTT


7 posted on 05/13/2006 9:20:55 AM PDT by E.G.C.
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To: LSUfan

That's the truth. Well, Bush is thinking about it.

Meanwhile, my wife is threatened with a court date and a $1200 fine for not having her proof of insurance on her when she piled into another car at 1 (one) mph. We had the insurance. The claim was filed. But the city which welcomes illegals and gives them in-state tuition was eager to go after my wife.


8 posted on 05/13/2006 9:21:51 AM PDT by sine_nomine (No more RINO presidents. We need another Reagan.)
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To: SandRat

I teach military people, vets and active duty, all the time. They are impressive. I am proud of their work and tell them so in each class.


9 posted on 05/13/2006 9:22:56 AM PDT by sine_nomine (No more RINO presidents. We need another Reagan.)
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To: LSUfan

Tell me about it. The main gate is 5 miles from my front door.


10 posted on 05/13/2006 9:31:56 AM PDT by SandRat (Duty, Honor, Country. What else needs to be said?)
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To: ▀udda▀udd

You came 4 years after I left and you left 6 years before I cam back to stay.


11 posted on 05/13/2006 9:33:07 AM PDT by SandRat (Duty, Honor, Country. What else needs to be said?)
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To: SandRat

Our paths werent meant to cross I suppose...


12 posted on 05/13/2006 9:50:12 AM PDT by ▀udda▀udd (7 days - 7 ways Guero ╗ with a floating, shifting, ever changing persona....)
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To: ▀udda▀udd

At least not until FR-land.


13 posted on 05/13/2006 9:52:26 AM PDT by SandRat (Duty, Honor, Country. What else needs to be said?)
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To: Dog Gone

H=3


14 posted on 05/13/2006 10:28:16 AM PDT by A message
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