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Maj. Peggy Kageleiry is swarmed by her children, Olivia, 6; Charlie, 4; and Mia, 3, upon her return.
Maj. Peggy Kageleiry is swarmed by her children, Olivia, 6; Charlie, 4; and Mia, 3, upon her return. (Matt Millham / S&S)
Maj. Peggy Kageleiry is swarmed by her children, Olivia, 6; Charlie, 4; and Mia, 3, upon her return.
Maj. Peggy Kageleiry is swarmed by her children, Olivia, 6; Charlie, 4; and Mia, 3, upon her return. (Matt Millham / S&S)
Maj. Gen. Mark P. Hertling, commander of the 1st Armored Division, stands with 27 of his troops during a welcome-home ceremony Wednesday in Wiesbaden, Germany.
Maj. Gen. Mark P. Hertling, commander of the 1st Armored Division, stands with 27 of his troops during a welcome-home ceremony Wednesday in Wiesbaden, Germany. (Matt Millham / S&S)

WIESBADEN, Germany

Lt. Col. Scott Shore was only about a minute and a half into his speech when the general before him held out his hand, extended a finger, and started whirling it in a circle. The meaning was clear: “Wrap it up.”

Hundreds of soldiers and family members who were watching the spectacle chuckled supportively at the gesture. Shore, the 1st Armored Division’s rear detachment commander, had his heart in the right place, but the crowd sympathized completely with Shore’s boss.

After 15 months in Iraq, Maj. Gen. Mark P. Hertling and the 27 soldiers who returned with him were eager Wednesday to get the formalities of the return ceremony over with, and the family members and friends waiting to greet them were, too.

“I dreamed of this day every day,” said Staff Sgt. David Rodriguez Jr., after reuniting with his wife, Roxanne, and his young son, David. “It’s just great to see my family, see them in good health and ...” he paused for a moment as his voice cracked. “It’s just wonderful.”

The deployment had its challenges, he said, but “the only difficult part was being away from my family.”

Now that he’s back, he’s not thinking past tomorrow, he said, just about reconnecting with his family.

Maj. Peggy Kageleiry, the unit’s public affairs officer, was mobbed by her three children as soon as the ceremony wrapped up.

“It is just so amazing because these guys, they’re just — I haven’t seen them in eight months,” she said holding Mia, 3, her youngest. “I mean, they’re just all grown up and the nice thing is, they remember me,” she said laughing.

She spoke with her family nearly every day, she said, adding, “I got to help sing them to sleep with lullabies.”

The contrast between that image and the reality of Iraq is stark, but the violence there has declined, Kageleiry said.

When the headquarters of 1st Armored Division left last year, the “surge” was under way and the naysayers were saying that it was too hard to fix Iraq, said Shore.

“With a little bit of swagger and a lot of confidence, you said that we were going to make history,” Shore said, referring to remarks Hertling made before he left. “And now, 15 months later, Iraq is a better place than you found it.”

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