Fort Gordon welcomes back troops from Iraq

Sgt. Ryan Smith greets his daughter, Kensleigh, and wife, Brandi. Smith and more than 100 other troops had been in Iraq for a year.

When Army Spc. Michael Johnson went through boot camp, his mother saved every letter.

She talked to him via Skype while he was deployed in Iraq, and she worried during communication blackouts, which are used for security purposes or when a soldier has been killed.

On Monday, Susan Schwenn finally got to hug her son.

“Oh, my God, words can’t describe it,” she said, with a smile on her face and tears in her eyes.

Fort Gordon on Monday welcomed home more than 100 soldiers from Bravo Company of the 63rd Expeditionary Signal Battalion.

The troops had been deployed for a year, during which time they provided communications support for an Army regiment in southern Iraq. It was the fourth time since 2003 the battalion, or elements of it, had been sent to the Middle East.

As the returning soldiers filed into the gymnasium and formed up one last time, they remained composed. A welcoming crowd of about 300 friends and family members did not. They sprang to their feet, cheered, clapped, and waved signs and flags.

There was a short speech, the national anthem, a prayer and a moment of silence in remembrance of fallen comrades. Then Bravo Company heard the words, “You’re dismissed,” and both soldiers and well-wishers fell into one another’s arms.

Maj. Gen. Alan R. Lynn, the commanding general of the U.S. Army Signal Center and Fort Gordon, attended the welcome home ceremony and said he does so as often as he is able.

“It’s important they know that leadership cares, and we do care,” Lynn said. “We are here to support them, no matter what happens.”

For Johnson, 21, the yearlong deployment was his first.

“Being away from family is the hardest part,” he said. “You can talk to people over the Internet, but with the time difference, sometimes you’re up at 2 or 3 in the morning.”

After the ceremony, Sgt. Deshonne Roscoe immediately collected his 8-month-old son, Deshonne Jr., in his right arm and his 3-year-old daughter, Alexccia, in his left. He smiled and spoke quietly, touching nose to nose with her.

“She missed him,” said Roscoe’s wife, Gloria. “She kept saying, ‘Where is my daddy? I think I see my daddy.’ ”

Roscoe said what he wants most is to spend time with his family. He had seen Deshonne Jr. only one time before Monday, during a two-week break.

Sgt. Reginald Houston also planned to spend his time home reconnecting with his wife and 13-year-old son. As Bravo’s first sergeant, Houston directed company operations in Iraq.

“Bringing them home is like the greatest thing,” he said. “They are an outstanding group. I’d go from here to h-e-l-l for them.”