I had the honor of attending friend Outlaw13's return to US soil, after yet another year long vacation in the sand box of Iraq. The parent unit, First Cavalry Division, puts on a ceremony to honor those returning and give their loved ones a chance to cheer for them en masse' prior to individual reunions. This is the second such ceremony I've attended - the last one was in 40 degree weather, 25kt. winds, and very cold rain. Much more pleasant this time, though the sun was once again missing.
The arrival ceremony takes place on the parade ground in front of ICAV HQ. The families and friends gather on reviewing stands - it is a festive atmosphere, with a recorded music blaring out, USO handing out flags, snacks, and drinks, and the buildup is quite moving to see. The unit is so large that several such ceremonies take place before they are all home. This group's families included a lot of parents, and an incredible number of very young girls with very young babies, waiting for their husbands to return after a year's absence. The age of a lot of those babies means that their fathers were not present for their birth. It's interesting to see the micro-short skirts, very low cut tops, and high heels many of the women are wearing, I guess wanting to make their hubbies proud when he sees them (although, I must say that the majority of these women really don't have the figures to make these outfits all that attractive).
One of the most moving things I witnessed was a young girl in a wheelchair, who had come with her family to welcome home Daddy. She rolled that chair out onto the 1CAV insignia by herself, and danced away with the other kids out there. The smile she had on her face, and the happiness she showed while flying around in that chair was awesome.
Well, the soldiers arrive in front of the parade ground in 7 buses. They deplane, fill ranks, and then the buses depart. The ranks, led by the Colors carried by troopers dressed in period Cav uniforms, march across the ground to a point near the 1CAV insignia. Two mounted troopers, again in period uniforms, flank the ranks - a very nice touch.
The Boss Man General steps up to the mike, and tells the ranks to rest easy. He then does an incredibly smart thing - his welcoming remarks are two sentences long, culminated by "CHARGE!" - at which point soldiers and family members rush towards each other. Way cool, lots of tears.
A nice ceremony, lots of reunions, but the final act is a bit insulting ... each returning solider has to be their own bellman - and a lot of them have a lot of heavy stuff to carry.
Anyway, load up the bags, and a trip to the local steakhouse for some decent food after his travel adventures seemed to lighten the load. Welcome home!