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Fri., Dec. 19
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A tearful, joyful welcome for 200 troops

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FORT DRUM — The post jazz band played, children danced to its upbeat tunes and wives and girlfriends cried some happy tears Monday.

All of them, and hundreds more friends and family members, waited patiently for soldiers from the 10th Combat Aviation Brigade to be welcomed home.

Dressed in matching camouflage T-shirts, four members of the Jones family, Hyde Park, Vt., anxiously awaited their fifth, Pfc. Tyler R. Jones. His parents, Paulette B. and Brian A., and his siblings, Mallory C., 17, and Austin P., 14, wear the shirts on special occasions such as this homecoming.

“It’s so he can easily see us in the crowd,” Mrs. Jones said.

Pfc. Jones is one of the 2,700 brigade members making their way back from a yearlong deployment to the Regional Command East area of Afghanistan, where its crews provided air services to soldiers including air support, transport and medevac.

Brig. Gen. Harry E. Miller Jr. welcomed the nearly 200 soldiers who arrived Monday afternoon.

“You all are a sight for sore eyes, but it’s glad to have you all back safe and sound,” he said. “Congratulations on a job very well done and mission accomplished. We’re all proud of you and you have a hell of a lot to be proud of.”

The straight lines of soldiers melted away into the crowds to find their loved ones.

As Pfc. Jones met his family, who bounded from the bleachers, Spc. John M.R. Wells headed to embrace his girlfriend, Melissa R. Hewett.

Ms. Hewett was with her friend Lindzy A. Owen and her daughter, 6-month-old Haileigh A.

“There is such a mixture of feelings,” Ms. Hewett said. “I’m feeling overwhelmed and excited. You get so used to seeing someone every day and then for a year you’re apart from them. It gets really lonely.”

Pfc. Jones said he missed his family and his friends, but he enjoyed his time in Afghanistan.

“I really like my job over there. It was really a lot of fun,” he said. “We compare it to the pit crew in NASCAR. When a helicopter comes in for repair or maintenance, that’s where we come in.”

Another thing Pfc. Jones missed while he was away?

“Pizza Hut,” he said. “I’d like to go there for dinner.”

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