Home at last
Jonathan Willis FCT Staff Writer
With American flags waving and hand-made signs and banners standing tall across the Huntsville International Airport parking lot, the final members of the Alabama Army National Guard's 115th Signal Battalion returned home to their loved ones Wednesday afternoon.
Standing in a slow, cold drizzle, more than 1,000 eager family members and friends waited to greet their soldiers as they returned from a one-year deployment to Iraq as part of Operation Enduring Iraqi Freedom.
The 115th Signal Battalion is a communications company headquartered in Florence and has units in Russellville, Moulton, Sheffield and Hamilton.
With Wednesday's arrival of approximately 140 soldiers, all members of the 115th have now safely returned to the area. The first wave of returning troops arrived at the end of December and another group returned on Feb. 20.
After unloading from buses and waiting to hear final instructions from their commanders, many of the soldiers openly wept as they met their families.
Many of the soldiers, such as Spc. Robert Shook, of Russellville, posed for pictures with their children to commemorate the day. Shook's five year-old son, Dakotah, and four-year old daughter, Victoria, were dressed in their Army fatigues to match their dad.
Others, like Belgreen's Brett Williams, reached for their infant children that they have rarely seen.
Williams' wife, Sara, gave birth to a baby girl named Ally Rain while he was home on leave in August.
The individual stories of each of the returning soldiers and their family members are memories that will never be forgotten and the chants of "USA, USA, USA" heard throughout the crowd served as a reminder of what they had done.