Soldiers, families reunited after yearlong deployment

By NICK BEADLESTON | The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.) | Published: July 9, 2014

Emotions flowed and the right words were sometimes scarce on Tuesday as 185 soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division's headquarters battalion were reunited with friends and family after a yearlong deployment to southern Afghanistan.

"I'm just, I don't know, speechless," said Donna Cordero after greeting her husband, Staff Sgt. Rowell Cordero, who served on the personal security detail for a senior officer. The soldier described the trials of this deployment as a "mental uphill battle."

With the war left thousands of miles behind, the couple is eager to move on with their lives. "This moment is worth the wait," Donna Cordero said.

Cheryl Marston, wife of Staff Sgt. Randall Marston, also was at a loss for words upon seeing her husband - a veteran of multiple deployments. "No words can describe it," she said.

The soldiers filed into an auditorium on Fort Carson through artificial smoke to the sounds of patriotic country songs. When released from formation, each headed eagerly to embrace family and friends.

Master Sgt. Harry Slone made a beeline for his daughters and knelt down so they could hug him, repeatedly. His wife stood behind them, holding a banner bearing his name and patiently waiting her turn to embrace him.

When asked what he wanted to do now that he is back, Slone responded without skipping a beat: "Whatever they want."

"I'm sure there's a cold beer waiting somewhere," he added with a grin.

Sgt. Kelly Straub said it was a "big relief to be back," said. "I'm very proud of her," said her mother, who, along with Straub's grandparents, had come to welcome her home.

But it wasn't just moms, dads, kids and spouses who came to greet the soldiers. Reunited families took many forms.

Maj. Vincent Manuel, a Roman Catholic chaplain, was met by more than a dozen members of his parish.

"I miss them, they miss me. It's good to be home," he said of his parishioners.

Now that he has returned, Manuel plans to spend some of his leave to visit his 93-year-old mother in India. "I have a big family wherever I go," he said.


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