22nd Signal Brigade soldiers return safely from Iraq
DARMSTADT, Germany — After a year in Iraq, Sgt. Derik Mead couldn’t remember his age. He also botched the age of his wife, Jolina. After she corrected him, he shook his head. “It’s been a long time,” he said with a grin.
He was just happy to be home alive.
Mead and 113 other members of the 22nd Signal Brigade’s Headquarters and Headquarters Company returned Wednesday from the unit’s second tour in Iraq.
A lot of near misses aside, “Every single person we took returned safe,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas J. Clark, the brigade’s top enlisted soldier.
“I can’t say I’m surprised,” said Col. Frederick A. Cross, commander of the 22nd, giving most of the credit for the unit’s safe return to training. “We were in harm’s way all the time, but the Lord was with us.”
For the near misses, the unit’s soldiers received nearly 20 Purple Hearts and 80 Combat Action Badges, Clark said.
About 40 of the brigade’s soldiers are still deployed, preparing equipment for return to Germany. About 730 soldiers with the brigade’s 440th and 32nd Signal Battalions returned from Iraq last week.
Kaleigh Stevenson, whose husband, Sgt. 1st Class Vernon Stevenson, joined the Army soon after they married 16 years ago, said she didn’t find her husband’s fourth deployment any easier than the others. She said she spent the weeks leading up to her husband’s return “trying to maintain my sanity.”
Looking after the couple’s four children alone challenged her more than anything, she said. “I can be mom, but I can’t be dad.”
Still, she said, the experience of getting to know Europe has been priceless, and her husband plans to stay in the Army another four years before retiring.
Christine Serigne, 21, and her husband, Sgt. Robert Serigne, 23, don’t have nearly as much time invested in the service.
“The Army’s good, it’s fine, it’s perfect,” said Serigne, as she waited out the last few minutes for her husband to return from his second deployment. But, she added, “We’re definitely ETSing,” using Army slang for getting out of the service.