Bragg, Seymour Johnson welcome troops home
Posted December 20, 2011
Updated December 21, 2011
Fayetteville, N.C. — North Carolina military bases held two homecomings Tuesday for troops returning after overseas deployments.
Dozens of airmen returned home to Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro from Afghanistan, where they were deployed for several months.
The 72 airmen are members of the 335th and 336th Fighter Squadrons. Twelve arrived in six fighter jets in the early afternoon, and the others returned later in the day.
Excited crowds and family members held signs and cheered them upon their return.
"I'm very excited. Now, it feels real," said Lisa Barger, who was at the air base to greet her husband. "With all of the phone calls and emails saying that they might be coming home early, to actually be standing here, it's something that I know they're not going to take away now."
Air Force Capt. Tadzwell Barger was excited to meet his daughter for the first time.
"She got big fast," he said. "She looks a lot older than I expected."
The airmen aren't scheduled for another deployment for several months, officials said.
Another 50 airmen were expected to return to the base on Thursday.
Family and friends gathered at Fort Bragg Tuesday evening to welcome about 200 members of the 82nd Airborne Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team, which is the last U.S. brigade to return from Baghdad, Iraq.
The excitement was building on base as Denise Lee waited to see her husband for the first time in seven months. She said his return couldn't come at a better time.
"It means everything. This is Christmas time. This is really the most important time of the year to be around your family," Lee said. "For (our children) to have their Daddy home, it really is the greatest gift that they could have."
Army Sgt. Joshua Martinez returned from Iraq last week after a seven-month deployment to find his home dressed up for the holidays and a "Welcome Home Daddy" banner on the garage door.
"It's kind of one of those moments when you just can't help but smile," Martinez said Tuesday. "It's them showing you that they really do care."
The 25-year-old combat medic had deployed three times to Iraq, including the troop surge of four years ago when peace in that nation seemed violently elusive. Final Bragg troops welcomed home from Iraq
"I thought it was pretty cool to be part of the surge and then part of actually being one of the last troops out of Iraq – kind of like closure," he said. "Whenever the history books are being written, I’ll be part of it. So, it’s something to look forward to.”
Martinez has never deployed anywhere else, and it's unlikely he'll ever return to the country where he's given so much of his life.
"I guess a change of scenery is always nice," he said with a laugh.
Byanca Martinez said she worried that her husband wouldn't be home for Christmas. But then, she and Zander, the couple's 22-month-old son, found themselves at Pope Airfield on Dec. 11 with hundreds of other families and so many emotions.
"You're anxious and nervous – you feel everything – and then you see all of the other families there. You can't help but tear up," she said. "It's a relief (to have him home), but he's still in the Army. He could still be deployed to Afghanistan. It's still scary."