Friday, November 9, 2007

Hugs, kisses, tears of joy greet returning soldiers

When Sgt. Michael Inchausti left for Iraq on Aug. 21, 2006, his son was but a babe in arms.

On Thursday, the 86th Signal Battalion soldier returned to the fort after a 15-month deployment to find a mini-me coming toward him dressed in a tyke-sized Army uniform
and combat boots, albeit with much longer hair on his head than dad’s.

Sgt. John McBride holds daughter Madison on Thursday at Barnes Field House. McBride returned to Fort Huachuca with fellow soldiers of the 86th Signal Battalion after 15 months in Iraq.

In 2006, Dominic Inchausti was a 3-month-old who was sound asleep in his father’s arms before the soldier boarded an airplane at Libby Army Air Field for the Middle East.

What was waiting for the soldier was a bundle of energy who ran around the gym floor at the post’s Barnes Field House as his mother, Sierra, occasionally caught up with him before the now 18-month-old child escaped from her.

Mom and son were waiting, along with hundreds of other spouses, children, other family members and friends, for more than 300 soldiers of the battalion to return.

More than 600 people, including soldiers of the 11th Signal Brigade who had not deployed, filled bleachers on one side of the gym.
Although planes returning soldiers to the fort usually land at Libby, this time the pilot of the civil commercial contract aircraft opted for Davis-Monthan.

“They’ve left Tucson,” one message broadcast throughout the gym announced.

A few cheered.

“They are leaving I-10 (Interstate 10)” was another message, greeted by a few more yells.

“They are going through Huachuca City,” which led to a growing amount of excitement as the cheers became louder.

“They’re on the fort,” which brought a really loud outburst.

A short time later, nearly 70 motorcycle riders of The Patriot Guard could be heard outside the gym as they cruised by and revved their engines.

A few in the audience who had a line of sight to see outside saw the nine buses carrying the soldiers go by, which led to screams of joy.

The bikers escorted the buses part of the way.

The greeters excitedly buzzed as they waited for the official arrival.

But first the motorcyclists came in, many carrying American flags.

They were greeted by cheers, almost like the yells were a warm-up for the main event — the soldiers.

The ceremonial entrance of the 86th’s soldiers created pandemonium as everyone in the bleachers stood and screamed.

A prayer and the playing of the national anthem was all that was involved in the formal ceremony.
Looking at the people in the bleachers, Pollett asked all the family members to come onto the floor of the gym and go up to a blue line.

“Don’t cross the blue line,” Pollett said.

Praising those who had supported their soldiers and provided for their children, he didn’t want any to fall and mar the welcome home.

The general then assumed command of the battalion. With a loud order of “dismissed,” soldiers ran to their families and families and friends to the soldiers.

For awhile it was mixed mayhem as the two sides looked for each other.

Small groups gathered, hugging, crying and laughing.

During the initial excitement after the official aspects of the ceremony were over, Ba’Ann George, a 3-year-old girl, slept on the floor off the side of the gym. Her father wasn’t returning. Her mother brought her and her brother to the ceremony because their father is a member of the 11th.

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