Troops welcomed home from Afghanistan in Fort Gordon ceremony

Soldiers' return from Afghanistan celebrated

Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012 10:15 PM
Last updated Friday, Jan. 27, 2012 10:17 AM
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A small but proud group of soldiers and civilians welcomed home members of the Army’s 297th Military Intelligence Bat­talion, Charlie Company, on Thurs­day.

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Spc. Rene Lopez grins as his daughter, Isabelle, tries on his hat after Thursday's official welcoming ceremony.  MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF
Spc. Rene Lopez grins as his daughter, Isabelle, tries on his hat after Thursday's official welcoming ceremony.

The homecoming was unique because most of the roughly 30 soldiers in formation at Fort Gordon’s Gym No. 6 had returned from Afghanistan in the past two weeks.

The ceremony was an official welcome – complete with a brass band and cake – to supplement the big hugs the soldiers had already received from family members at the airport.

Uniforms outnumbered blue jeans in the crowd, but there were several mothers in the bleachers bouncing babies on their knees.

Melissa Cowley was holding Cayden, who met his father, Spc. Conn Cowley, for the first time two weeks ago. Any worries about their reunion proved unfounded.

“He jumped right into my arms,” said Conn Cowley, as he playfully lifted the baby over his head.

The battalion supported combat troops by providing real-time intelligence to assist in battles and capture insurgents. While several moms in the group were closing their first deployment, Tracie Rayburn was welcoming home her husband, Staff Sgt. Paul Rayburn, for the fourth time. By her side were Mason, 7, and Avery, 4.

Tracie Rayburn’s advice for spouses: “You can’t let yourself wallow in the sadness. You have to find a reason to get out of the house.”

Spc. Camden Sircy, who was cradling his first son, 8-month-old Braiden, said the pomp and circumstance of the welcome-home ceremony was appreciated.

“But, really, it’s more about seeing family,” Sircy said.

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specsta 01/27/12 - 05:16 pm
Wonderful photo of Spc. Lopez

Wonderful photo of Spc. Lopez and Isabelle with the hat. Great job, Michael Holahan.

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