Würzburg hospital team is home from Iraq

Sgt. 1st Class Owen Carter (left), Spc. Tira Crosby, Pvt. Rebecca Davis, and other soldiers from the 67th Combat Support Hospital stand in formation behind a curtain, waiting for the first glimpse of loved ones.


By STEVE LIEWER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: January 19, 2005

WüRZBURG, Germany — Little Megan and Melissa Becker dozed quietly in their mother Annette’s arms, ignoring the hubbub around them as only 2-month-old babies can do.

After a brief ceremony, the girls and their mother rushed through a crowd of reuniting families from the 67th Combat Support Hospital.

Annette Becker searched the sea of faces until she saw the one she wanted: Sgt. David Becker, home finally after back-to-back deployments of four months in the Republic of Georgia followed by nine months in Iraq.

Becker scooped up his two little girls, holding one in each arm.

He kissed first one, then the other, on the tops of their heads.

“It’s been hectic, stressful — definitely stressful,” Becker said of his long deployment. “I’m just glad it’s over.”

Becker was one of about 150 67th CSH soldiers who arrived home to Würzburg, on Tuesday, most of them after a dangerous yearlong tour in Mosul, Iraq. About 200 more of the unit’s soldiers are due back by week’s end.

The reunion took far longer than expected. Families had been expecting the reunion every day since Saturday.

“It was the longest weekend of the whole year,” said Christine Framstad, who brought her three children — ages 8, 5 and 16 months — to greet their dad, Maj. Mark Framstad, who is an anesthesiologist. “We made it! It’s nice to have it over.”

The 67th CSH’s Mosul contingent endured a difficult deployment. Three times the hospital was moved after rocket attacks scored direct hits on its building at Camp Marez. And the medics handled a staggering 91 casualties at once a few days before Christmas when a suicide bomber blew himself up in the middle of the base’s chow hall.

The troops had been in transit from Mosul since late Sunday.

Families had gathered about 5 a.m. in the temporary “reunion” building near the helipad at Würzburg’s Leighton Barracks, holding signs, flowers and balloons while children frolicked in a makeshift play area in one corner of the tent.

But due to a series of delays, the troops and their families weren’t reunited until shortly after 11 a.m.

Mary Swink brought her 3-year-old collie mix, Winston, to greet his “doggy daddy,” Sgt. 1st Class Andy Swink. She tied “I Love You” balloons to a harness on Winston’s back.

She said nothing in her 3½ years of marriage prepared her for such a long separation. She coped by traveling to see family, and with visits from her grown children.

“It’s enough to be the single parent of a dog,” she said. “I can’t even imagine how moms do this with little ones.”

Capt. Michelle Stewmon and her husband, Chief Warrant Officer 5 Brian Stewmon, know something about single parenting. Brian Stewmon spent 11 months in Iraq in 2003 as an AH-60 Apache Longbow pilot, then played parental tag team with their three children as his wife, a combat nurse, deployed for 11 months with the 67th CSH.

They’ve been apart 22 of the past 23 months, but Tuesday’s reunion proved especially sweet. It fell on the 13th birthday of their daughter, Erika, and one day after Michelle’s birthday.

“It’s like a dream to me. It’s finally happened, too good to be true,” Michelle Stewmon said.

After troops and families exchanged hugs and kisses in the reunion tent for about 20 minutes, Col. Mary Clark, the Mosul hospital commander, grabbed a microphone and pronounced an end to the 67th CSH’s job in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“Job accomplished, OIF over,” she said. “Mission complete.”

Sgt. David Becker of the 67th Combat Support Hospital greets his 2-month-old twins, Megan (left) and Melissa.