After spending between six and eight months in Afghanistan, the soldiers – part of the 1st Brigade Combat Team – returned to Fort Bragg just after 9 a.m.
Less than an hour later, the paratroopers were reunited with family and friends.
The soldiers were among more than 2,000 1st Brigade soldiers who have been deployed to Afghanistan and as part of a peace-keeping mission in Kosovo. In Afghanistan, the soldiers advised allied troops and provided security to numerous bases across the country.
The return Wednesday was a surprise for some families, who have patiently waited for their soldiers since the deployment began last year.
Marissa Martin said she expected her soldier, Cpl. Douglas Martin, to return some time next month.
But Martin was prepared. Signs for her soldier were made a month ago. And a photographer was on call to chronicle the homecoming.
“It’s the best Valentine’s surprise ever,” she said.
Jaxson, the couple’s 15-month-old son, perked up each time he heard his father’s name. On several occasions, he offered an excited “Daddy!” as he clutched a sign that read “I’m not as tiny as I used to be. Come and kiss your mini me.”
Martin said Jaxson was 13 pounds when his father left for Afghanistan. Today, he’s nearly double that. He can say a few words, walks and eats real food – milestones Cpl. Martin has largely missed as the family communicated once or twice a week by phone.
“It’s been really hard,” Martin said. “It’s been really hard on him, too.”
She said the family was extremely proud of what their soldier has done during the deployment.
“We’re just excited to have him home,” Martin said.
Military editor Drew Brooks can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 486-3567.
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