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Spc. William Kumm greets his wife, Jessica, and his 3-month-old son, Lukas, after returning home from Iraq July 3. He was deployed for nine months with C Company, 864th Engineer Battalion.
After nine months of improving the quality of life for Iraqi citizens by paving roads and building structures, 130 Soldiers assigned to C Company, 864th Engineer Battalion, came home July 3 to Fort Richardson.
The Soldiers were greeted by enthusiastic family and friends, who started lining the bleachers in the Buckner Physical Fitness Center gym earlier that morning.
The unit was originally scheduled to fly into Elmendorf Air Force Base around 7:30 a.m., but delays caused them to arrive later in the afternoon.
Even though the number of Soldiers returning was small, the anticipation level ran as high as if an entire brigade was coming home.
Finally, at 3:30 p.m., the Soldiers marched through the gym’s double doors. Shouts and cheers ricocheted off the walls, and after a short formation, the Soldiers were released to be reunited with friends and family.
For some returning Soldiers, the reunion was an opportunity to finally meet their children face-to-face for the first time.
“He missed the whole pregnancy,” said Katie Hornback, about her husband, Pfc. Aric Hornback. Their son, Logan, was born three weeks prior to the unit coming home. “Today will be the first time he will get to hold him,” she said.
The timing of other births within the unit were a little more fortuitous.
Staff Sgt. Glenn Hall’s seven-month-old twins, Lexi and Laci, were born during their dad’s mid-tour leave. Two days after they were born, however, their dad had to return to Iraq.
“It was hard to let him go,” admitted his wife Kathleen Hall.
photos by Sharon McBride/Fort Richardson PAO
Annabella Knavel, 2, clutches her teddy, and waits as patiently as she can before running forward to hug her father, Sgt. Allan Knavel.
The challenge of caring for twins definitely made the second half of his deployment go fast, she said.
The twins were all smiles as they waited for their dad, wearing matching bibs with “Welcome Home, Daddy” messages on them.
For most of the families, the nine-month deployment went by quickly because many of the Soldiers in the unit had already deployed once before.
Deployments have almost become the routine, said Melissa Voreh, the unit’s family readiness group leader.
“I told all the wives you have to keep a realistic outlook,” she said. “It’s not going to be as hard as you think it could be.”
Voreh spoke from experience, her spouse Sgt. Joshua Voreh was one of several in the unit who have deployed before. The Voreh’s have two children, Kolby, 7, and Shelby, 6.
“I noticed early on, they react to the way I react,” she said about her kids. “If I stayed calm and positive, so did they.”
She passed that tidbit along as well as other advice to mothers with spouses deployed with the unit. Staying active and keeping busy are the essentials to surviving any deployment, she said.
Xolotzin Medina, the wife of Staff Sgt. Juan Medina, agreed with Voreh’s advice. She worked, volunteered and coached teams her three children played on the entire time her husband was gone.
“When I stopped working is when time slowed down,” she said. “So I volunteered more and focused on being a stay-at-home mom. But I found I liked the challenge of being a single parent (during the deployment.)”
But as her husband walked through the door, it was easy to see by the look on her face she didn’t regret her time as a single parent was over.
After kissing her husband and watching her children launch themselves like mini-rockets into her husband’s arms, Xolotzin Medina didn’t waste anytime heading out the door to go home.
One hundred twenty-nine Soldiers and their families followed close behind.
Chris Jr. and his sister, Jessica, could not wait to greet their father, Spc. Chris Martinez, after he returned from Iraq, July 3, with 129 other Soldiers who deployed with C Company, 864th Engineer Battalion.