Soldiers arrive in Vicenza after long journey from Iraq
Stars and Stripes August 10, 2006
VICENZA, Italy — The welcome mat was put out once again Wednesday morning.
With an overnight bus trip from Germany, two dozen soldiers from 3rd Platoon, 68th Transportation Company made the long way back to home base, capping almost a year deployed in Iraq.
Staff Sgt. Andrew Durant said his group, which included soldiers from the Mannheim, Germany-based 25th Transportation Battalion, spent their time running convoys in Anbar province, often seen as the most dangerous part of the country.
But he said all of the soldiers who left Vicenza last August are returning safely, having survived a few roadside bomb attacks.
He said the unit’s missions revolved around resupplying Marines and soldiers stationed in the province.
Durant, the senior noncommissioned officer deployed, said he didn’t plan to do a lot of driving in the near future.
“Just relax and be with my family,” he said.
Family members, friends and Maj. Gen. Frank Helmick, commander of the Southern European Task Force (Airborne), were on hand to greet them.
“It’s been a roller coaster ride,” said Carmelita Hernandez, the family readiness group leader. Her husband, Sgt. Hazael Hernandez, was one of the first ones off the bus. Families had been waiting for days for their soldiers’ return, with numerous reported arrival times getting pushed back.
Wednesday’s return was small scale compared to the much larger movements of SETAF and the 173rd Airborne Brigade this spring that involved thousands of servicemembers returning after long deployments.
But Rita Bonamego, the community readiness program manager, said there’s seemingly always someone deployed from Caserma Ederle. The return of the 68th currently leaves the 499th Transportation Company — with an even smaller contingent from Vicenza — still in Iraq.
“They’re never all back,” she said.
Even with the 499th scheduled to return this fall?
“Somebody else will go,” she said. “I can’t tell you who and when, but it will happen.”
It won’t be the 68th, though. At least for a while.