A holiday at home for the 77th
November 27, 2003
BABENHAUSEN, Germany — Many people joke the Army’s motto should be changed from “An Army of One” to “Hurry Up and Wait.”
One classic example had military families on the receiving end of the stick Wednesday afternoon when their 107 deployed soldiers from the 77th Maintenance Company, part of the 3rd Corps Support Command, returned from a nine-month deployment in Iraq.
A sea of tanned faces and sand uniforms marched toward the Family Support Center to a cheering, parade-like gaggle of wives and children holding American flags, balloons and flowers.
Cries of joy held back tears and confusion raced over some faces trying to recognize family members as the soldiers came to a halt.
As the excitement nearly climaxed in hugs and kisses, soldiers instead filed into the building away from families and friends to be briefed on homecoming procedures. Family members — newborns and all — were ushered upstairs.
Key leaders took about 15 minutes to summarize the deployment. Finally, soldiers were released and family members came back downstairs for the reunion.
There was no running into loved ones' arms or jumping up and down with glee because of the awkwardness of making it down the stairs with small children.
Still, happiness was in the air.
Staff Sgt. Fred Chappell said it was wonderful to be back with his wife, Bernadette, as he hugged her. Asked what plans they had, he said, “Take a long bath together.”
Some daddies saw their children for the first time; newlyweds kissed like it was their wedding day all over again; large families felt complete.
“It’s good my dad is coming back,” said Raymond Gomez, 16. “There’ll be more control in the house.” He said it was hard being the oldest, mature child in the house during the deployment of his father, Sgt. George Gomez.
Others also were relieved to have their spouses back.
“It’s been so hard, I need some rest,” said Marithes Mandig, who was married for only five months before her husband went off to war, and then had to be a first-time mother all alone with a 5-month-old sick child, Martin.
Mandig also said she looks forward to getting to know her husband again.
The Army insists on everyone reuniting the right way, with weekend classes for troops and their families right after Thanksgiving Day.
Chaplain (Maj.) Robert Powers said things such as weight loss or gain and even a different hair color can be difficult to accept during homecomings, but Ladonna Dunham said her change is going to knock the socks off of her man, 2nd Lt. Jermaine Dunham.
“I got out of the Army in August, so he’s never seen me like this before. I’ve put highlights in my hair and I’ve probably lost about 10 to 15 pounds,” she said.