News: Rakkasans return, reunite with family
Story by Sgt. Alan Graziano
FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. – Approximately 240 soldiers from various companies and battalions of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team “Rakkasans,” 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) returned home from a deployment to Afghanistan and were recognized with a welcome home ceremony March 27 at the Campbell Army Airfield.
Welcome home ceremonies are very unique events because they provide the first opportunity for soldiers and family members to reunite after long periods of separation that result from deployments.
Among the hundreds of family members eagerly waiting for their soldiers to arrive, there was a certain veteran – a former Rakkasan infantryman – who was experiencing a particularly ironic turn of events.
“In 1991, we went over (to Iraq) for the first Persian Gulf War,” said Robert Fay Sr., a former soldier from the 3rd Battalion “Iron Rakkasans,” 187th Infantry Regiment, and also the father of Spc. Robert Fay Jr., a third-generation infantryman who followed his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps into combat in the very same battalion that they served in.
“Robert was born after I left, so I met him for the first time in this hangar right here,” he said. “My wife handed him to me. He was seven months old. Now, the tables are turned, and I’m waiting for him.”
Being reminded by the familiar situation, Fay Sr. had some flashbacks of his own experiences as he anticipated his son’s return.
“I’m kind of thinking, ‘What’s going through his mind?’” he said. “He’s doing this right now and he’s doing that right now. They made me wait forever when we came in.”
Finally, however, the wait was over. The plane landed and the returning Rakkasans were greeted by congratulatory handshakes from key leaders and ecstatic cheers from their family members as the soldiers walked past and prepared to enter the hangar.
The bay doors opened wide and the formation of soldiers marched forward. The chaplain gave an invocation and the honorary speaker provided some words of wisdom to the returning warriors.
“The commanders told you down range to take care of yourself and take care of your buddy. Today, I would add, take care of your families,” said Brig. Gen. Mark Stammer, the acting commander of the 101st Airborne Division.
He then released the soldiers to their families. Spouses, children and parents excitedly rushed to find their returning soldiers among the massive formation.
Among the crowd, Fay Sr. quickly spotted his son and gave him a hug, holding on tightly as he embraced the moment. He was relieved that he had finally made it home safely after spending several months in Afghanistan conducting combat missions.
“This is a day I will probably never forget,” said Spc. Fay just moments after reuniting with his father, mother, siblings and girlfriend.
Among the many overwhelming feelings, the Fays experienced a strong sense of pride in their shared military heritage.
“I’m honored. I’m really glad that he did (join the Army), and that he became a Rakkasan,” said Mr. Fay.
Although he knows that living up to the Rakkasan legacy left behind by his father and grandfather is no easy task, Spc. Fay said that the support he gets from them is what motivates him to drive on.
“It’s a lot of heritage to fill those shoes,” he said. “It’s a lot of hard work, but I know they’re happy, so that’s all that matters.”
After a short period of reintegrating back into his pre-deployment lifestyle, Spc. Fay and his fellow returning veterans will go back to doing what Rakkasans do best – training hard to perfect their combat skills and tactics.