FORT STEWART, Ga. — Nearly 5 months old, Ryder Pirkola went to meet his father Tuesday wearing a matching Santa shirt and britches. All that was missing was a bow on his head.
“It’s the first time his dad has seen him, so it’s his Christmas present,” said Brittney Pirkola, the infant’s mother, as she waited with hundreds of others at Fort Stewart’s parade grounds for her husband and members of his Army unit to return after nine months in Afghanistan.
It was an early Christmas of sorts for about 200 soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment and their families. Pvt. Marcus Pirkola of L’Anse, Mich., was nearly speechless after his wife handed him their baby boy for the first time. She was five months pregnant when he deployed in March.
The soldiers served a shorter tour – nine months in Afghanistan as opposed to the year the unit was accustomed to spending in Iraq.
Situated near Savannah, Fort Stewart doesn’t have the most Christmas-like climate. The temperature was 68 degrees and unseasonably humid.
Dachanna McCampbell, 20, didn’t let the balmy weather dampen her holiday spirit. She showed up to greet her boyfriend, Pfc. Scott Malena, with a large sign that said: “Lookin’ for My Santa Baby.”
“It’s very, very exciting. I missed him like crazy,” McCampbell said. “He asked me what I want for Christmas and I was a dork. I sent him a link to a Mariah Carey song – All I Want for Christmas Is You.”