FORT KNOX, KY, UNITED STATES
FORT KNOX, Ky — Christmas came early for hundreds of soldiers and their families.
More than 240 soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, returned home from a deployment to Afghanistan to the cheers of family and friends during an early morning ceremony at Fort Knox’s Natcher Physical Fitness Center here Wednesday.
There was standing room only in the gym, as hundreds of spectators gathered to welcome the formation of soldiers silhouetted by a large American flag.
Patriotic songs filled the air but the loud speakers were no match for the roar of the crowd.
After a brief welcome home speech, the soldiers were released to their families who raced into their arms- some of them jumping while others, too young to walk, crawled.
“I have waited for this for so long,” Brittany Collins, wife of 1st Lt. Justin Collins said, wiping away tears. “This is the best feeling in the world.”
In addition to being the first of many redeployment flights, in the coming weeks, the ceremony marked a very special first for the Collins’ family.
During the reunion, Justin met his three-month-old daughter, Isabella for the first time.
“This is truly amazing,” Justin said, kissing his daughter on her cheek. “There’s nothing I can compare it too.”
The “Duke” brigade is scheduled to redeploy its soldiers throughout the next few months and will look to have everyone home early next year.
Approximately, 2,500 soldiers of the 3rd IBCT deployed earlier this year in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Operating as Combined Task Force Duke, the Fort Knox soldiers supported Afghan-lead operations, assisted with security for Afghan elections, and conducted retrograde operations.
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This work, Big Red One soldier’s return home in time for the holidays, by SSG Thomas Duval, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.