Friday was a day of homecoming for 189 men and women of the Alabama National Guard as the 226th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade returned home.
The 226th MEB has been working hand-in-hand with the Afghan government for the past 9 months. Its mission: to hand off the improvements it created to the government and the people, leaving it in a better way than it was found.
On Friday, that mission was accomplished successfully as the Brigade returned home. It was a triumphant return and celebration – one that will be remembered for the rest of their lives…for both the families that were home and for the soldiers returning.
After nearly a year in Afghanistan, the soldiers were greeted by loved ones…some they have never seen before.
It was a waiting game for a good part of the morning at Fort Whiting Friday as the 226th MEB attempted to make its way home. But not without a flat tire first. The hour and a half delay did not stop the anticipation of its arrival.
“He’s worth the wait. It’s been hard and we’ve had to deal with a lot and come to a lot of obstacles that is totally worth it. Been married for a little over a year. We got married in December 2012. He left our four-month wedding anniversary,” said Meagan Travis.
Brothers, sisters, moms, dads, sons, daughters, and even ‘mans’ best friend’ eagerly awaited for their loved ones to arrive home.
I’ve missed her a lot. She’s been gone for a year now. And I’m just ready for her to get back home,” said Christina Ferrell. Her sister Evony returned Friday.
“I’m just blessed us is coming home. All of them are coming home,” said her mom, Cynthia.
“I miss him a lot. I’m so glad he’s coming home. I love him a lot. He’s the best dad I could ever have,” said Mary-Grace Miller. She and her sister, Isabella were waiting for their dad. “I missed him really a lot. And it’s the first time he’s ever been away from me,” said Isabella.
“I’m so happy that he is coming home and we haven’t seen them in nine months. So I’m going to get really happy,” said Eli Perkins. Eli was looking forward to seeing his dad, Sgt. Chuck Perkins.
Suzanne Lowery and her three girls, 2-year-old Charliegh, 9-year-old Nicole, and 11-year-old Amy did not know their dad was coming home until Friday morning.
“We were sitting there eating breakfast in the hotel and I looked up on the TV and I saw on the TV and said 226th MEB is coming home and I was like isn’t my dad in the 226th,” said Amy.
With the surprise comes the gift of a newborn baby boy…Sgt. Lowry’s first boy – named affectionately after his dad.
“We has the new baby that he has not met yet. So he is coming home to a brand-new baby that’s 4-weeks tomorrow. It’s a wonderful gift. We are very blessed to be able to have them come home and the rest of the unit come home also.
After a much-awaited delay, the busses were in sight. With a police escort along with the Patriot Riders, busses pulled up outside Fort Whiting where the 189 men and women greeted their loved ones. Once inside, after a prayer, the National Anthem, and a few words of encouragement, the soldiers were released.
“It’s good. I’ve been waiting a while now so it’s good. My first boy,” said Sgt. Timothy Lowery as he saw his son for the first time.
Caroline Williams eagerly awaited her husband’s return with sign that read: “Lt. Williams, I’ve waited 315 long days. Get over here and kiss me.”
“I want that special second first kiss again. I think I’m more excited today than I was on our wedding day,” said Caroline.
Needless to say, she got what she asked for.
“Words can’t describe that. Been away from her too long. It’s just good to be back in her arms,” said Lt. Williams.
“It’s going to be home obviously. It’s always an emotional thing. A lot of things happened while we’re away over there. So it’s always good to get home and reconnect and see them and close the loop and spend time with the family,” said Captain Bethany Shivers.
The families will now return to their normal lives after some much needed rest and relaxation.