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    170th soldiers return from Afghanistan

    170th soldiers return from Afghanistan

    Photo By Spc. Nathan Goodall | Spc. Douglas Feltner, a Colfax, Ind., native, now an information technology specialist...... read more read more



    Story by Spc. Nathan Goodall 

    170th Infantry Brigade Combat Team

    BAUMHOLDER, Germany -- A cheering crowd overflowed out the basketball court bleachers onto the sidelines. A uniformed team stepped onto the court and the crowd went wild. But it wasn’t a basketball game, and the men and women in uniform taking the floor weren’t a basketball team. They were soldiers coming back from a deployment to Afghanistan. This was the first time their family and friends had laid eyes on them in months.

    Soldiers with 170th Infantry Brigade Combat Team returned from Afghanistan to their families and friends during a welcome home ceremony at the Hall of Champions here, Jan. 14.

    An hour before the ceremony, people started filling the gym. Thirty minutes later, the place was packed.

    The crowd was composed of spouses, sons, daughters, friends and fellow soldiers. Flashes flickered throughout the audience as people tested their cameras. Children gripped signs that displayed messages like “Welcome Home Dad!” Some would look down at their signs every now and then, just to make sure they were holding them right.

    “We were anxious to see our soldiers,” said Stephanie Feltner, whose husband was returning at the ceremony.

    Anticipation was high, and everyone wanted to make sure they were ready to make the ceremony a perfect memory.

    When the returning soldiers entered the gym they were met by a standing ovation. They stood in formation to the sounds of roaring applause and shouted praise. Countless cameras flashed over their faces. They were rock stars.

    When the ceremony ended, soldiers broke away from their formation and people poured out of the stands to greet their loved ones.

    The scene was a mix of joyful tears, firm handshakes, soft sobs and big smiles. Some hugs between soldiers and their spouses lasted more than a minute. For service members whose families were present in Baumholder, the moment was everything to them.

    For Soldiers like Pfc. Steven Lightsey, a St. Cloud, Fla., native, now an air defense battle management system operator with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 170th IBCT, it was just good to be back in Germany.

    Lightsey wished his fiancé, who lives in the United States, was around, but single soldiers like him were greeted with a handshake and a slap on the back by others that cared.

    It was the reason soldiers like Spc. Michael Rabacal and Spc. Jeremiah Blanchette attended the ceremony on their day off.

    Rabacal, a Manila, Philippines native, now a signal support systems specialist with A Battery, and Blanchette, a Stanley, Va., native, now a forward observer with C Battery, both with 1st Battalion, 84th Field Artillery Regiment, 170th IBCT, returned from Afghanistan last month.

    They don’t have any family in Germany, but having their friends around when they came back went a long way.

    Like Lightsey, Blanchette’s fiancé lives in the United States. Showing soldiers that don’t have family in Germany they aren’t alone was very important to him.

    “[For single soldiers,] the only family you have here are your buddies,” Blanchette said. “Seeing all your friends waiting to shake your hand was a great feeling for me when I came back. I wanted to do the same for all my friends coming back today.”

    Having friends ready to show single soldiers they were missed and are cared about was one of the most important reasons to hold the ceremony, said Rabacal.

    “It’ll break you down, because you’re home, you accomplished everything you had to do, and your friends used their free time to come see you,” said Rabacal. “It just feels amazing.”

    For soldiers with family in Germany like Spc. Douglas Feltner, a Colfax, Ind., native, now an information technology specialist with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 170th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, the ceremony provided a moment he’d dreamed about for months.

    After Feltner’s formation was released, he was embraced by his wife, Stephanie, and two children, Kionna and Gabriel. Feltner kissed his wife and held his children for the first time in months.

    “My kids are huge!” Feltner said, grinning. “They’ve grown since I’ve been gone.”

    The reunion was too much to put into words.

    “I’m speechless,” Feltner said, shaking his head and staring off. “It’s too surreal right now. It hasn’t quite hit me yet.”

    Feltner looked at his wife and children with wide eyes. “My family, they just take my breath away every time I see them.”



    Date Taken: 01.14.2012
    Date Posted: 01.27.2012 15:45
    Story ID: 82951
    Location: BAUMHOLDER, RP, DE 

    Web Views: 272
    Downloads: 1