About 300 soldiers return home from Iraq
By LARRY GIERER
Spc. Xavier Valles was greeted by a dozen balloons. Spc. Chana Patterson was greeted by about a dozen relatives.
The two were among approximately 300 U.S. soldiers returning to Fort Benning from Iraq Tuesday evening.
They are members of the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, that has been deployed for a year.
Six hundred members returned in August. Two more groups are expected to fly into Lawson Army Airfield by the end of this week bringing the September total to 750.
“It’s great to be back,” said Valles, whose wife, Joalice, and two young children greeted him.
“I made sure to get some Boston Red Sox balloons,” Joalice Valles said. “He’s from Boston.”
The time away has been difficult. The couple’s youngest child was 6 weeks old when he left.
“This is very emotional,” she said.
Patterson of Tuskegee, Ala., was overwhelmed to see her large welcoming committee in Freedom Hall.
“My mother, aunts, uncles, nephews and nieces,” she said. “Super.”
Fidel DeJesus of New York began cheering before his daughter, Spc. Rebecca DeJesus, entered the room. The Puerto Rican native, a small American flag sticking out from his cap, pumped his fist into the air when he saw his daughter depart the airplane.
“I’ve been this nervous for a year,” he said, holding his hands wide apart. “Now, I’m this nervous,” he said, bringing his hands practically together.
DeJesus, his wife, Libia, and daughter, Teresa, made the 20-hour drive from New York to greet Rebecca.
“We’re all very proud. She is serving her country and that’s what she wants to do,” Dejesus said. “Rebecca came home for a short visit six months ago but my mother had passed and I didn’t get to see her. It’s been a very long year.”