By Jeffrey Whitfield
What at first could have seemed like a cruel joke played by fate, turned into the happiest of homecomings late Friday at Fort Gillem for the 184th Ordnance Battalion returning home from Iraq.
The 25-member Battalion arrived home safely, though hours later than expected due to transportation problems during the flight home. But the wait was well worth it for everyone involved after the soldiers arrived by bus to the Neal Fitness Center around 5:30 p.m., nearly eight hours later than expected.
Tarena Evans, 22, waited more than two hours in the lobby of the building before her father arrived home, knowing his young grandson was on the verge of one his first milestones.
“I can't wait for my dad to see my son,” said Evans. “He didn't want to miss seeing my son start walking.”
The soldiers were forced to wait out mechanical problems on their flight home to Atlanta, and were re-routed to Charleston, S.C., where they were transported by bus. Still, the 25 soldiers were finally greeted amid a joyous atmosphere by family members and friends.
“I feel really good to be back,” said Shawn Adolphus after seeing his daughter Tarena, his wife Janet and Ta'shawn, his 10-month-old grandson. Adolphus, an Army Chief Warrant Officer Third Class served five weeks in with the battalion, which saw five members killed this year during the war in Iraq.
Other soldiers in the battalion like 26-year-old Tania Foy of Stockbridge have served as much as a year in Iraq.
“This is my first time seeing my family now,” said Foy, a Human Resources NCO, who learned she would be heading home about two months ago. “It's a great relief.”
She was met by three of her relatives, including her husband Karime.
“I'm happy to see her. I couldn't be prouder. We're going to make up for lost time,” he said.
Foy had communicated with relatives by e-mail and through phone calls while she was stationed in Iraq.
After the soldiers met with family members, they were honored in a 15-minute ceremony that featured remarks by Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Leo Bradley among a bleacher-filled crowd.
“I want to thank you guys for the job you did overseas. The difference you have made has saved lives,” he said.
The 184th Ordnance Battalion provided command and control for all Army bomb and disposal activities. Since being deployed about a year ago, the battalion performed an average of 45 missions each day.
A total of 27 purple hearts have been awarded to the battalion, Bradley said.