Third ID Soldiers Home for the Holidays - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

12/20/05

Third ID Soldiers Home for the Holidays

One of many happy reunions on Cottrell Field this morning. One of many happy reunions on Cottrell Field this morning.

Early this morning, about 230 members of the Third Infantry Division's Second Brigade Combat Team were greeted with hugs and kisses from friends and family at Fort Stewart. All homecomings are happy, but this time of the year makes it even more special.

Soldiers we talked with couldn't be more thrilled to be home with their loved ones for the holidays, but say they're not forgetting about the thousands still in Iraq.

Friends and family gathered in the early-morning chill for the special Christmas present from Uncle Sam. Their soldiers must have felt the anticipation, but they couldn't show it as they marched like those waiting to welcome them home.

Finally, after a ceremony kept mercifully brief, they were dismissed, and waiting spouses and family members mixed freely with their soldiers.

The fact that lots of their comrades are still overseas was not lost on these soldiers, despite the happy reunions. "It will be nice to be with family, certainly will," said Sgt. Jeff Porter. "Except the other family that's back there still, but they'll be here in a couple of weeks."

"Wish they could have made it for Christmas, but we'll celebrate for them till they get here," said Staff Sgt. Richardson. "We're going to welcome them with open arms when they get back."

"The good thing is they're all together, you know, over there, and looking forward to getting back here," said Capt. Roy Beeson.

But for now, these soldiers at least can look forward to the comfort and joy of home.

As for the rest of the Third Infantry Division, we can look forward to many more homecomings over the next month or so. One group that plans to be there for all of them is the Liberty County Vietnam Veterans of America. They were there today to help give troops the kind of welcome they say they never got.

For some of the families gathered, this was the second or third time they've had to welcome their soldiers home. These vets have seen it close to three hundred times.

"We think these brave young warriors deserve all the attention they can get," said Vietnam vet Paul Spenc. "And we love to come out here. One o'clock in the morning, ten o'clock at night, whatever it takes, we're here."

They say the warm reception is something they didn't get in the '60s.

"It's entirely different," Spenc told us, comparing his experience to the cheering of the crowd today. "When we come home, we didn't have anyone to greet us. We were kind of worried about it at the time, but we're over that now. And we want to make sure these troops have somebody out here."

No need to worry about that today. "They're a very disciplined bunch of fellows, I tell you," Spenc said, watching them march in formation toward their waiting loved ones. "I don't know if I'd be able to hold back if it was me."

Finally, loved ones embraced in a scene familiar to the vets. "This does not get old," Spenc said. "It never gets old seeing them come back."

And with Christmas just around the corner, they say it couldn't happen during a better season.

The Vietnam veterans will tell you homecomings like today have helped them get over cold receptions they recall from their day, and they're happy to turn out and support today's warriors.

Reported by: Charles Gray, cgray@wtoc.com

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