Support our mission
 
Soldiers from the 1st Infantry Division’s Division Support Command stand at attention, moments before their reunion with families at Harvey Barracks in Kitzingen, Germany. Fifty-three members of the unit returned home with the division’s advance party Saturday after serving 10 months in Iraq.
Soldiers from the 1st Infantry Division’s Division Support Command stand at attention, moments before their reunion with families at Harvey Barracks in Kitzingen, Germany. Fifty-three members of the unit returned home with the division’s advance party Saturday after serving 10 months in Iraq. (Steve Liewer / S&S)
Soldiers from the 1st Infantry Division’s Division Support Command stand at attention, moments before their reunion with families at Harvey Barracks in Kitzingen, Germany. Fifty-three members of the unit returned home with the division’s advance party Saturday after serving 10 months in Iraq.
Soldiers from the 1st Infantry Division’s Division Support Command stand at attention, moments before their reunion with families at Harvey Barracks in Kitzingen, Germany. Fifty-three members of the unit returned home with the division’s advance party Saturday after serving 10 months in Iraq. (Steve Liewer / S&S)
Sgt. Vishnutivanan Lavarrkkaetti hugs his daughter, Monica, during Saturday’s reunion. It was Monica’s fifth birthday.
Sgt. Vishnutivanan Lavarrkkaetti hugs his daughter, Monica, during Saturday’s reunion. It was Monica’s fifth birthday. (Keiko Kuraya Liewer / Special to S&S)
Sgt. Markus Fiumefreddo and his daughter, Nicolle, 4, wait with flowers for their wife and mother, Marina, a soldier in the 1st Infantry Division's Kitzingen-based Division Support Command returning from Iraq. Fiumefreddo himself spent seven months in Kuwait and Iraq last year with the 2nd Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment.
Sgt. Markus Fiumefreddo and his daughter, Nicolle, 4, wait with flowers for their wife and mother, Marina, a soldier in the 1st Infantry Division's Kitzingen-based Division Support Command returning from Iraq. Fiumefreddo himself spent seven months in Kuwait and Iraq last year with the 2nd Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment. (Steve Liewer / S&S)

KITZINGEN, Germany — Monica Lavarrkkaetti got the best fifth birthday present a little girl could ask for.

For a half-hour before sunrise, she sat quietly next to her mother, Melissa, and her 2-year-old sister, Maria, holding a birthday card tightly to her jacket.

Then a curtain opened, revealing 53 soldiers from the 1st Infantry Division’s Division Support Command, or DISCOM, standing at attention under the roof of the “reintegration tent” at Kitzingen’s Harvey Barracks.

After some patriotic music and one short speech, the soldiers and their families — separated by war for 10 months — ran together. Monica’s daddy, Sgt. Vishnutivanan Lavarrkkaetti, scooped her up and kissed her, again and again.

“That was a blessing. We prayed for them to come home on her birthday,” Melissa Lavarrkkaetti said. “[Waiting] was really hard on her, because she’s so close to him.”

The Lavarrkkaettis were among dozens of families reunited Saturday as the first three planeloads of 1st ID soldiers arrived home in Germany after 10 months of duty in Iraq.

The 154-member advance party included mostly cooks, truck drivers, armorers and motor pool specialists who are needed to help prepare the way for main body of troops that will follow them in February and March, said Spc. Rebecca Sharpton, a spokeswoman for the division’s Würzburg-based rear detachment.

At least a few soldiers returned to most of the 1st ID’s bases, Sharpton said. But the largest returning contingents included 52 from four units in Katterbach, 30 in Schweinfurt and 53 DISCOM troops in Kitzingen.

“We’ve all been looking forward to this,” said Maj. Christopher Chun, DISCOM’s rear-detachment commander.

“It’s a signal of the end of the deployment. That means our friends and our families are getting ready to come back.”

The soldiers had endured an all-night journey: more than six hours on a military cargo jet from Iraq, then five hours of collecting baggage, riding buses and turning in gear after arriving in Germany.

“It was a whole lot of waiting,” Sgt. Lavarrkkaetti said.

But the final day of waiting paled compared with the seemingly endless months of separation.

“Ten l-o-o-ong months,” said Kim Wilson, as she waited for her husband, Staff Sgt. Kenneth Wilson.

“Just being with the kids, being both parents — that’s the hardest part,” said her friend Tonga Hackett, who was waiting for her husband, Sgt. 1st Class Robert Hackett.

Most of Saturday’s returnees, though, were single soldiers whose homecomings with moms, dads and sweethearts are yet to come.

“It’s a little depressing,” said Pfc. Kristyn Geaslen, 22, of Nipoma, Calif., as she rode a bus from the tent back to her barracks at Harvey. “But we’ve been out together for 10 or 12 months. So it’s kind of like we’re all one family.”

Some of the soldiers felt uncomfortable about coming home early with the advance party, which means their Iraq tours will be about two months shorter than those of their peers.

“It feels good, but we wish everybody could be here,” said Pfc. Omar Williams, 20, of North Augusta, S.C. “We’ll come back and prepare everything for them.”

Migrated

Stripes in 7



around the web


Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up