They murmured to each other while a five-piece band played patriotic tunes.
Then, across from the crowd, a large bay door rolled open and 20 soldiers with the 202nd Military Intelligence Battalion marched in. Guests erupted in cheers as the soldiers filed in. Silence took over as Lt. Col. Aaron Sammons addressed the audience.
“Though I can’t give specifics on what your soldiers did down range, but I can tell you they’re all heroes in what they did,” he said. “Welcome home. A job well done.”
The battalion was responsible for providing real-time intelligence support to special operations units in Afghanistan.
After closing remarks the soldiers broke from formation to embrace loved ones.
Staff Sgt. Christopher Villalobos rushed to his fiancée, spinning her around and planting a kiss on her lips. “As soon as the door opened, it was everything that we’ve been waiting on for an entire year,” he said. “We’re going to come home, have a nice dinner and catch up.”
Staff Sgt. Rachel Singratsomboune said she was most looking forward to having her first bite of pizza.
“Part of you is like, ‘Holy crap, I have a lot of stuff to do,’” she said. “I have a lot of bills to pay. I have to figure all of my stuff out. I have to be responsible.”
Her mother, Tina Harmon, said she stayed in touch with her daughter via Facebook and that hugging her for the first time in a year was pure bliss.
“I can’t even describe it,” Harmon said.
While soldiers posed for pictures with family, the platoon leader, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Garrin Stock, greeted his children. He said knew what he will do first thing in the morning.
“I’m going to make waffles for the kids,” he said.