After nine months securing a crucial airbase in Afghanistan, 19 soldiers returned to Virginia just in time for the holidays.
Members of Fort Lee's 612th Movement Control Detachment marched to the ceremony in formation Thursday morning, making their way to a homecoming packed with friends, family, and fellow soldiers.
"This is like Thanksgiving and Christmas rolled into one," said family member Debra Edwards. "We haven't slept for two nights. There was a snowstorm in Pakistan… and when we heard the soldiers were on American soil again in Baltimore, it was a great feeling."
Following a singing of the national anthem and an official presentation at 7 a.m., dozens of children ran to greet their parents with open arms. Lt. Lauren Baccarny said it was difficult to see her son in the audience and stand at attention before she was dismissed.
"After not seeing my family for nine months, it took some real focus to stand there," Baccarny said. "But now it feels amazing. I've never felt better."
Besides spending time with loved ones, the soldiers have a range of relaxing requests now that they're back in America.
"I'm going to hop in the shower with no shower shoes," Baccarny said. "That's something I'm looking forward to."
Five-year-old Antonio Tucker Jr. said he plans to make a home-cooked meal for his mom, Lt. Essie Washington.
"That's exactly what I want," Washington said. "And I'm looking forward to celebrating my son's birthday tomorrow now that we're all together."
The service-members will all have Christmas off to spend with their families. Many from the unit took time to remember the thousands of soldiers who will remain far from home in Afghanistan.
"We don't want to forget about them this holiday season," said Washington. "But I thank God that I'm reunited with my family during Christmas time."
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