Back Home from Iraq

Dozens of soldiers from the National Guard based in Houston are back home following a nine month tour of Iraq. Family members waited anxiously at the National Guard Armory in Pasadena for their return. Pat Hernandez has more.

About 140 guardsman with the 72nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team were reunited with loved ones after a week of medical tests and mental health screenings at Fort Bliss near El Paso. Jackie Howard had just married her husband Chris when he shipped off:

This is his first leave. He’s been in the National Guard for a little over three years. We got married in June so, we didn’t get to spend our marriage time together before he left so, we can start over!.

Spc Chris Howard’s unit was stationed at 2-camps near Baghdad. It helped with detainee operations and train Iraqi corrections officers. Jackie communicated often with her husband through Skype, a software application that allows users to make voice calls over the internet. She admits that it made her want to see her husband soon:

When you see the look on their faces when they come in, and you know that they just missed you and you know they’ve been gone for so long and you’re like, Oh man.  It’s an unbearable feeling. It’s hard, it is really really hard.  I think it’s probably the hardest in the world.

PH : “So, what’s the first thing you’re going to do to your husband?

Howard : “I’m going to attack him when he gets off the bus, (laughter) I’m gonna tackle him!

When the bus carrying the first wave of troops arrived, the crowd at the armory couldn’t hold back emotions. SPC Beltran said it was home sweet home: “I can’t wait to see my family.

PH : “What was the hardest part about being there?

Beltran: “Getting used to the environment. Overall, it wasn’t what I expected, I thought it was gonna be a lot worse but, it was a good deployment thankfully.

Spc Josh Barker’s whole family surprised him: “It’s pretty nice, I wasn’t really expecting it, but yeah, it is definitely nice.

PH : “What was the big challenge when you were over there?

Barker : “I don’t know, you get into a routine so, I mean at first, when you get there, just the change of scenery, the different schedule, the times really, but once you get into the routine.

PH : “But the routine helps you count the days.

Barker : “Yeah, you don’t even really think about how long you’ve been there, you just wake up and you know if you gotta go to work or not, because every day was different.

PH : “Now, even though you’re back Josh, there is that risk I guess of going back, right?

Barker : “Oh that’s fine. I’ll go, if my friends go, I’m going so, I’ll go back with these guys any day.

A homecoming ceremony for the returning soldiers will take place at 10am tomorrow morning at the American Legion Hall in Pasadena.

Pat Hernandez, KUHF News.