Fort Gordon soldiers head home for holidays

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Valli Stephens jokes with her son, Pvt. Karheem Stephens, as she picks him up from Fort Gordon for holiday leave. By 6:30 a.m. Thursday, about 2,000 soldiers had left the post for the holidays.  EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
Valli Stephens jokes with her son, Pvt. Karheem Stephens, as she picks him up from Fort Gordon for holiday leave. By 6:30 a.m. Thursday, about 2,000 soldiers had left the post for the holidays.

Pvt. Tia Rodriguez slept little on Wednesday night.

She was waiting with other members of the 369th Signal Battalion for her family to pick her up for a two-week holiday break.

She and other soldiers kept themselves entertained by talking, playing on cellphones and laptops and watching movies.

By 6:30 a.m. Thursday, about 2,000 soldiers had left Fort Gordon for the annual holiday exodus. Rodriguez and a handful of others from her battalion still waited. Her parents, a sister and her cousin had left her hometown of Philadelphia about 10 p.m. Wednesday.

“(My mom) wanted that bonding time,” Rodriguez said.

After she signed out, the family would immediately turn back north for the
roughly 10-hour trip home.

Rodriguez last saw her family when she went home for four days in May.

The one thing she most looked forward to was a home-cooked meal. She didn’t even care what it was, so long as her mother made it.

“I already told my mom I want a pre-Christmas dinner tonight,” she said, laughing.

Pvt. Karheem Stephens was looking forward to spending time with his girlfriend, family and friends in St. Thomas.

His parents arrived about 7 a.m. to take him home for the holidays.

A few minutes earlier, Mariah Hare spotted Pfc. Jamonica Hare as she walked across the parking lot outside. Mariah Hare squealed and ran to hug her.

“I’m always happy to see my sister,” she said.

Pfc. Joseph Collazo’s grandparents drove from Crossville, Tenn., on Wednesday night and stayed in a hotel. They arrived about 6:30 a.m. to pick him up.

Like several of his colleagues, Collazo said he looked forward to catching up on sleep during the break, although he expects he will still wake up at 4 a.m. every day.

Each soldier who signed out received a treat bag filled with cookies and candy prepared by Army Community Services.

The soldiers will return for duty Jan. 3.


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