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Fort Drum aviation soldiers return home just in time for Christmas (VIDEO)


FORT DRUM — No rain, no ice, no winter cold could prevent Grace A. Tipton from getting to Wheeler-Sack Army Airfield on Sunday afternoon from Evans Mills.

Her husband, Spc. Thomas C., was returning from a nine-month deployment in Afghanistan, the first one since they were married.

“Nothing was going to stop me from getting here,” she said, holding her 9-month-old son, Gabriel, before the ceremony. “I would’ve walked if I had to.”

Spc. Tipton was one of about 250 soldiers from the 10th Combat Aviation Brigade who made their return just in time for the holidays. The ceremony was in doubt because of the weekend’s ice storm, which caused organizers to delay it for two hours.

The brigade deployed earlier this year with about 1,800 personnel, serving in a wide range of air and ground support roles in the eastern side of the country.

After a short ceremony, soldiers and families quickly rushed to reunite.

Spc. Tipton said being home meant the world.

“It’s amazing,” he said. “It’s the best Christmas ever.”

Sgt. Premnath Ramkalawan said the hardest part of the deployment was being away from his 14-month-old daughter, Sophia.

“You miss the littlest things,” he said.

For Spc. Levi T. Powell, his return was the first time he had been in the same room as his 7-month-old son, Preston. For the duration of his deployment, he had to watch his son through video chats.

“It’s amazing,” he said, standing next to his wife, Rachel A. “This is our first child, and I’ve missed him.”

Mrs. Powell said she was ecstatic to have her husband return in time for Christmas.

“Best one yet,” she said.

Video from the ceremony can be viewed at

Fort Drum aviators return from Afghanistan
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