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Soldiers grateful to be home for Thanksgiving

Posted November 27, 2008

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— Fort Bragg paratroopers enjoyed Thanksgiving at home, just a few days before they leave on a yearlong deployment to Iraq.

Men in the Scotts Mill neighborhood, Hoke Loop and Raeford roads in western Fayetteville, spent Thanksgiving doing activities common across America.

Steven Robertson was outside, stringing up Christmas lights. "The wife kicked me out of the house while she's cooking," he said.

Eric Harder spent time in front of the television, watching "Detroit and the Titans, and the Titans are crushing Detroit," he said. "Just gonna eat some turkey here and watch some football."

Yet, both men are officers in the 82nd Airborne's 3rd Brigade Combat Team. Next week, they will leave for Iraq. They came home in April after 15 months in Afghanistan.

"It makes a difference when you've been away for so much, and then you come back and you actually get to spend the holiday with your family," Sgt. Ryan Matthews said.

Families throughout the neighborhood are in the same situation: "My neighbor is a captain. He's a lieutenant. Down there is a chief warrant officer four," Robertson said.

The sergeant's next-door neighbor is gone, deployed overseas for the past seven months.

"I'm an infantry guy, so I do understand. But it would be nice to see him. I've missed him," he said.

Robertson didn't have to live this lifestyle. He gave up bartending at age 32 and joined the Army.

"I joined up a couple years after the war started. I wanted to get in and do my part," Robertson said.

For Matthews, the holidays haven't been the biggest milestone he has missed; it was his daughter's first birthday.

"It was rough, especially with my daughter's birthday being around the same time," he said.

Soon, these soldiers will be in a place with no football, no basketball, far from home. That, they say, makes them all the more thankful for this holiday.

"Just being home in the States, you can't ask for anything more than that," Matthew said.

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