FORT DRUM The first group of soldiers from the 1st Brigade Combat Team is back home after about eight months in Afghanistan.
The group of about 100 soldiers was welcomed by a large contingent of family and friends, who filled up most of the gymnasium at the Magrath Sports Complex at noon Wednesday.
Its absolutely everything, said Lt. Col. Michael T. Oeschger, commander of the 3rd Battalion, 6th Field Artillery. Were more than happy to do our job, take care of our nations business, but at the end of the day, people want to get back and see Mom, Dad, wife, children, loved ones, whoevers important in their lives. Its the best thing in the world we can do every time we get home.
The 1st Brigades soldiers have served in a security force assistance team role in Ghazni province since early January, helping to improve their Afghan military and police partners as they take the lead in operations. The returning group also included a small number of soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, which does the advising work in Paktika province, and the 10th Combat Aviation Brigade.
Among those returning home was Staff Sgt. Peter D. Larson, who looked with pride at his three children, Alex, 3, and twins Katie and Tommy, 14 months.
I was just feeling like I was missing everything, Sgt. Larson said. They were barely standing up when I left, and now theyre walking all over.
Before the ceremony, Sgt. Larsons wife, Jennifer E., said Alex had been telling everybody he saw about his fathers return. Mrs. Larson said Alex was excited about wrestling with his dad.
Asked what he was looking forward to most since returning, Sgt. Larson said he already had gotten what he was looking for.
Baby hugs, he said.
Maj. Stephen P. Wuensche, coming off his third deployment in Afghanistan, said he was thrilled to see his wife, Renee, and children, Montgomery R., 11, and Pierson A., 7, and to be able to sleep in a real bed, and eat real food.
He wouldnt have to wait long to hear about the food waiting for him. As he finished his sentence, Montgomery blurted out, Mom baked a cake for you!
For Sgt. Donte E. Morris, his return Wednesday was his first chance to meet his 6-week-old daughter, Nyaomi, who was brought to the gym by his wife, Alanna M. He said walking into the ceremony to a large cheer left him overwhelmed.
One of the best experiences in my life, he said.
Spc. Kevin Stackss return Wednesday was timed almost perfectly: his wife, Candice, is about four weeks away from delivering their first child, a girl they plan to name Harper.
Being pregnant, its been an interesting journey, Mrs. Stacks said.
Spc. Stackss parents, Ken and Kim, came to the ceremony from their hometown of Houston, Texas.
It means a lot, Spc. Stacks said.
Brig. Gen. Mark J. ONeil, deputy commander for operations, told the returning soldiers that their selfless service during the deployment was something of which they and their families could be proud.
Video from the ceremony can be found at http://wdt.me/hAVkmZ.