Ashley Freeman had never won a contest in her life — not until Saturday night.
As the Army wife waited for the return of her husband in a packed hangar on Butts Army Airfield, her raffle-ticket number was announced over a loudspeaker.
She let out a loud squeal.
Her prize: the first kiss of the night.
While his comrades remained at attention and spouses looked on enviously, Cpl. Patrick Freeman stepped out of formation to meet his wife. He tangled his fingers in her hair and kissed her deeply, dipping her slightly back.
Minutes later, 200 of Patrick Freeman’s fellow soldiers — members of Fort Carson’s 1st Battalion, 2nd Aviation Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division — also reunited with their loved ones.
The battalion’s soldiers spent the last year in Southern Afghanistan, providing aviation support to International Security Assistance Forces.
Battalion pilots flew 20,291 combat hours, including 750 hours of medical evacuation missions. They maintained 24-hour medical coverage of their area of operation, providing care to 430 patients and responding to 10 mass-casualty events.
The battalion did not suffer fatalities during its deployment.
An additional 200 of the battalion’s soldiers are expected to return to Fort Carson by the end of the month.
Waiting to reunite with her soldier Saturday was Army wife and new mother Sasha Roush.
Though her husband, Cpl. Scotty Roush, was able to return for their daughter Aubrey’s birth eight months ago, he’d missed out on many of her firsts, like crawling, pulling up and her first word: “dada.”
Sasha Roush didn’t want her husband to miss another first, so she and Aubrey skipped Christmas.
Their plans for Sunday included opening presents together and eating their first family meal.
“For us, this is Christmas Eve,” Sasha Roush said.
For the DuBois family, Saturday night was Christmas Eve No. 2.
Beverly DuBois and her two daughters — Kelsie, 3, and Kaylie, 8 — attempted to celebrate Christmas by opening a few presents and eating dinner with other military families.
But it wasn’t the same without Chief Warrant Officer Matthew DuBois, so the girls decided they’d have a do-over on Sunday.
They spent Saturday afternoon wrapping presents for their soldier and primping for his return.
“The girls have been waking up at 2 or 3 a.m. and crying for daddy,” Beverly DuBois said. “Daddy’s girls are here to pick up their hero.”
Katrina Hinds went out of town for Christmas in an attempt to make time without her husband, Sgt. Anthony Hinds, fly by quicker.
As she waited in the hangar for her husband’s return Saturday, Katrina Hinds ticked off a list of occasions the couple planned to celebrate: missed holidays, promotions that both had received during the deployment and the couple’s upcoming wedding anniversary.
Her biggest reason to celebrate: Anthony Hinds' safe return.
How did it feel to finally have him in her arms again?
“Just like Peaches and Herb sang, 'Reunited and it feels so good,'” Katrina Hinds said.