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Family, supporters greet paratroopers back from Iraq

Posted July 17, 2008

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— Exclamations of "Welcome home!" were on the lips of family and friends when 300 paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team, including the unit's commander, returned home from Iraq on Thursday.

The 1st Brigade, commanded by Col. Charles Flynn, was the last 82nd Airborne unit to return since the whole division's 13-month deployment began last year.

The soldiers' loved ones waited anxiously for them to arrive at Pope Air Force Base on Thursday.

"(We're) just waiting to see his face so we can just let him know how much we love him and how much we miss him, how much we appreciate him for going out and fighting for our country," said Peggy Manning, the mother of a soldier.

"It's so hard not knowing where he is, what he's doing, and only getting phone calls once, twice a week," Michelle Youngblood, the girlfriend of a soldier, said.

Gracie Wages, though, knew exactly what her uncle had been up to for the past year.

"He protects us, and he saves our planet," Gracie said.

Around 12:30 p.m., the paratroopers stepped onto North Carolina soil. The soldiers marched in rank past their families while "The Star Spangled Banner" played.

Sgt. 1st Class Raymond Middleton said the sweetest sound was hearing screams of "Daddy!" from his two girls. Middleton said he missed seeing them develop during the deployment.

"Just seeing them grow up," Middleton said. "Their sports, doing everything that they do. Their school, everything."

Spc. Eric Cruzat saw his little girl, Hope, for the first time. Cruzat said he was "pretty excited" and had "mixed feelings" when he first held his only child.

The brigade lost eight paratroopers during its 13-month deployment in western, central and southern Iraq.

The unit, 3,000 paratroopers strong, was part of the troop surge in Iraq last year. It partnered with Iraqi security forces in southern Iraq.

The entire division was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan last year. Once the remaining troopers in the 1st Brigade Combat Team return home, all of the 82nd Airborne will be back at Fort Bragg.


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  • RaleighMan Jul 18, 2008

    Thanks to all our military heros! God bless them all!

  • something2say Jul 17, 2008

    Glad you are home safe! Thank you for your service!!!! It is your commitment that continues to make America the home of the free!

  • Jake Wildstar Jul 17, 2008

    Welcome home bro's.

  • At Work Jul 17, 2008

    Thank you to all the brave men and woman that are now home! I hope you relax and unwind for awhile.

  • mrtwinturbo Jul 17, 2008

    I had 8 deployments to South West Asia from 1990 - 2000, coming home was always a blessing, my most memorable return to NC was after my first deployment of 11 months after the first war. Seymour Johnson had the U.S. flag hanging from the control tower, it was almost the same size of the tower. And after 11 months of seeing nothing but brown and beige, that red white and blue flag was spectacular!!!Not to mention green grass and trees. Imagine living in a black and white world which would be pretty much the same. I'm retired now after more than 20 years, I don't miss the military just the good friends that I served with. Welcome home guys!!

  • ncborn2 Jul 17, 2008

    WELCOME HOME!!! And more Paratroopers will be coming in Saturday and Sunday as well!!!

  • G-man Jul 17, 2008

    Welcome home and thank you.

  • Worland Jul 17, 2008

    Welcome home! Your performance in Iraq was OUTSTANDING!

  • allison842 Jul 17, 2008

    Welcome home boys (and ladies). Thank you for your service.

    I hope any of these people who find it hard to readjust to life in the United States will seek all the support that's available to them. I can't even imagine what they must go through.

  • garden Jul 17, 2008

    Thank you!!! May God bless each and everyone of you!!!