Christmas came early for family and friends of Alpha Company, 63rd Signal Battalion, which arrived five months ahead of schedule Friday from Iraq.
An hour before more than 100 soldiers arrived, Gym No. 3 at Fort Gordon was packed with eager mothers, wives and children. Battalion comrades in fatigues sat under a wall plastered with homemade signs saying, “Welcome home.”
“I didn’t allow myself to get excited until I got (to the gym),” said Arvion Hall, who was waiting for her husband, Sgt. James Hall, to return. Seated on her knee was 2-year-old Mickel and, behind her, 5-year-old Layla Singh, both of whom have been waiting for daddy to get home from work, Hall said.
Nearby, Jessica Bennett was cradling 5-week-old Natalie and keeping an eye on 3-year-old Gage, who was romping around the gym floor with the other children. A big Christmas at home is waiting for her husband, Spc. Johnathon Bennett.
“I’m just ready for him to meet his daughter,” she said.
Around noon, the buses pulled up outside the gym, and soldiers spilled onto the lawn to applause from fellow soldiers. Within minutes they were marching into the gym, the shrieks and cheers of family competing with the bright strains of Stars and Stripes Forever.
The soldiers, still dressed in dark green fatigues, remained expressionless through a short ceremony. But with the command to “dismiss,” big smiles broke out on everyone’s faces as families rushed into their soldiers’ arms.
Sgt. David Ballard was the nucleus of a group hug from his wife and two daughters. It wasn’t his first deployment, but experience doesn’t make the separation any easier, said his wife, Rebecca Ballard.
Ballard was glad to have his wife in his arms and a Christmas at home, but there was one thing in particular he was looking forward to: quiet.
“I’m so ready get away from the noise of trucks and generators,” he said.