Soldiers come home for holiday

By Billy Corriher

After nine months away from her husband, Jonesboro resident Vickie Davis is thrilled to have him home in time for Christmas.

"It just feels really great," she said. "I don't have to get the toys wrapped by myself."

The last time her husband, Major Willie Davis with the Third Army at Fort McPherson, saw his 22-month-old son, Solomon, he was only eight months old.

"(Solomon) barely recognized him at first," she said. "He was calling him ?mom' for a while."

But Major Davis said that since being home for a month, he's back to "dad" again and he's just happy to spend Christmas with his family.

"It's nice to be back with my kids," he said.

Davis said the hardest thing about his deployment is knowing how much is wife is struggling with their children.

"It's hard when they're sick or something, things you don't have any control over," he said.

But his wife said she has learned to cope with the sacrifices that come with marrying a soldier.

"When you have three kids, you just kind of have to be strong for them," she said.

Sgt. Steve Langer of McDonough was deployed to Kuwait on Jan. 2. This year, it will be around March when he goes back overseas.

"It feels great not having to worry about shipping right back out again," he said, adding that time at home is important for the morale of soldiers.

His wife, Jackie Langer, said it was especially hard for her when her husband was first deployed, because she had just moved to Georgia from New York.

"I didn't know many people," she said. "It was pretty tough."

Lt. Gen. David McKiernan, who commands the Third Army Division, said the difficulties that soldiers' families endure are an unavoidable reality in wartime.

"Despite the strain that these deployments put on families? they all understand it's part of the mission," he said.

McKiernan said that when commanders are forced to choose between accomplishing the mission and the wishes of their soldiers, the mission has to come first.

McKiernan said many of the soldiers in the Third Army who just came home were deployed for two or three years.

"Anybody that was gone last Christmas? we tried to get them back over this year," he said.

The army is now planning a massive rotation that involves bringing 250,000 soldiers home from Iraq and Kuwait and getting other soldiers in their place, he said.

McKiernan said his soldiers have been out a long time, enduring a great deal since the war with Iraq began, and he is proud of how they performed.

Davis said although he will miss his children when he returns to Kuwait, he has to do his duty.

"I've been in the service 17 years," he said. "I've done it before."