2-63 Armor Regiment soldiers return to Vilseck from Iraq

Staff Sgt. James Thomas is embraced by wife Lynn, daughter Annie and son James Sunday in Vilseck, Germany, during a return ceremony for the 2nd Battalion, 63rd Armor Regiment.


By RICK EMERT | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 22, 2005

VILSECK, Germany — About 200 2nd Battalion, 63rd Armor Regiment soldiers returned from Iraq on Sunday in two waves to a post decorated with hundreds of signs welcoming the troops home.

Nearly every fence, light post and traffic sign had a greeting attached.

There was no question that the soldiers had arrived at Rose Barracks as military police vehicles with lights flashing and sirens blaring escorted the buses through the post.

Gathered at the Hilltop Sports Center, families waited for the soldiers to turn in their weapons and equipment before they marched into the gym to cheers and waving flags.

“I’m excited; it’s hard to believe he’s actually home,” said Lynn Thomas, of husband, Staff Sgt. James Thomas, as she waited for him. “He’s actually here, on this post somewhere.

“On one hand it seems like he wasn’t gone that long, but on the other it seems like he’s been gone forever.”

Her kids, James and Annie, were restless as they waited out the final moments of the deployment.

“I can’t believe he’s finally home,” James said. “Now I have someone to ride my mountain bike with.”

The Thomases said the deployment was difficult, but they adjusted to the separation. “It was really hard at first, but then I sort of got used to it,” Annie said.

Thomas had been deployed to Kosovo just before heading to Iraq, and spent 23 of the past 28 months deployed, Lynn Thomas said.

Some of the family members sitting in the bleachers were only there for support. Petra Kulp’s husband, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Kulp, the 2-63 Armor battalion commander, was due to return on Monday.

“I can wait one more day,” Kulp said. “I just want to him to get here safe.”

After a year of separation, Kulp said it was good to see the soldiers and families reunited. “When you look at the children with their parent who has been deployed, it’s just wonderful,” she said. “It’s the best thing that has happened all year.”

Ethan Trevino, 2, will finally get to play with his dad. “(Capt. Brandon Trevino) said the first thing he wants to do when he gets home is play with his son,” said Bess Trevino, as she waited for the soldiers to march into the gym. “I’m so anxious and excited. He’s here, and he is safe.”

Family members cheer and wave flags as 2nd Battalion, 63rd Armor Regiment soldiers march into the Hilltop Sports Center Sunday in Vilseck, Germany.

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