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82nd Airborne paratroopers return home

Posted March 9

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— Friends and family of 118 paratroopers in the 82nd Airborne Division waited early Wednesday morning at Fort Bragg for their loved ones to return home.

The division has been deployed for about nine months. Two other groups of soldiers from the same division returned home over the last few weeks.

Capt. Dimitris Hunt was met by his wife and kids who surrounded him as soon as they could. Hunt beamed as he greeted them.

"You see these kids? You see these smiles? That's all it takes," Hunt said. "Just one little smile and I'm glad to be home."

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Wavell Williams said he thought his children were going to run and jump on him while he was standing in formation.

"I was like, 'Look, please don't let them do that,' because I know they have been a little bit worried," Williams said. "I get to talk to them a lot – watching them grow up on the camera – and seeing them right now, when they jumped me, I didn't recognize my boys. But it was beautiful."

When Lt. John Valitutto left for the Middle East, his son was just 11 days old. Now, the lieutenant can't believe how much he's grown.

"It was hard to leave my wife, but she had everything under control," Valitutto said. "Look at (my son) now. I can tell she did a great job."

India Williams met her husband at the base, too. She said he's been away for a while, but she's looking forward to catching him up on the things he's missed.

"Everybody's had a birthday since he's been gone," Williams said. "Our anniversary, my transition from the military and a couple of other things."

Wednesday marked the final wave of 82nd Airborne Division troops returning home, as they turned over command in Iraq to the 101st Airborne Division out of Fort Campbell, Ky.

The returning paratroopers spent the last month in an active war zone, but they say it's getting better.

"It's still a violent place," said Maj. Gen. Richard Clarke, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division. "There are still mortars and rockets and suicide bombers that exist. (But) it's getting better every day."

The soldiers have four days off before returning to work. Soon, though, the troops will have two weeks off to spend with their families.

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