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The homemade signs and nervous energy of the crowd made it seem as if they were waiting for their favorite band to take the stage, but each of them was waiting to see someone much more important.
Soldiers from the 8th Battalion, 229th Aviation Regiment returned to their families Sunday at Godman Army Airfield after a 13-month deployment to Iraq. A welcome home ceremony was held for them in the afternoon.
Family members filled one side of the hangar from one end to the other. They waited with flags, balloons, flowers and signs. Screams filled the room when the buses arrived, eventually becoming a chant of “move that bus!” Once the buses had gone, there stood the soldiers, who marched in, hiding their excitement about being home.
Brig. Gen. Peter Quinn, commander of the 11th Aviation Command, welcomed the soldiers home and thanked them for their service. He promised a short speech, on which he delivered, and he received a loud “hooah!” in response.
Lt. Col. James Posey Jr., commander of the battalion, told the crowd the soldiers were happy to be back.
“We’re all tired, we’re all excited, and most of all, we’re all ready to go home,” Posey said.
Chief Warrant Officer Jeffrey Braunhauser emphasized that it’s the families that should be honored for their work, not the soldiers.
“It’s easy for us, we just go to work every day,” Braunhauser said. He smiled at his wife, Rebecca, who grinned back at him.
“It takes a very special wife to put up with it,” he said, laughing.
Rita Braden was there to see her son, Chief Warrant Officer Jeffrey Braden, return home. She held a sign that wished him a “happy birthday.” He turned 27 Sunday. She said she got chills when he marched in the room.
“Very patriotic feeling, very proud of him, very proud of the whole unit,” she said.
Spc. Tiffany Short was encircled by family members, a “convoy of people,” she said. She said she did not really believe Sunday’s ceremony would happen.
“Then, when I got on the bus, that’s when it felt real,” she said.
Lindsay Bodytko, Short’s sister, said she stayed constantly worried during her sister’s first deployment overseas, but she was filled with pride when she saw her sister among the soldiers.
“To us she’s just Tiffany, but to the whole world she’s a hero,” she said.
Kelly Cantrall can be reached at (270) 505-1747 or email@example.com.