FORT STEWART — About 200 soldiers from the Macon-based 48th Brigade Special Troops Battalion and the Forsyth-based 148th Brigade Support Battalion returned from Afghanistan late Monday.
The unit landed at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah at about 11 p.m. Monday before being ferried to Fort Stewart. The soldiers were officially welcomed home shortly after midnight in a brief ceremony at the base’s parade field.
The ceremony was punctuated by remarks from a colonel from the Georgia National Guard headquarters in Atlanta, who wisely kept his oration brief. Once the ceremony was complete, the family members —— and their emotions — were released.
“Oh my baby is home,” said Brenda Taylor, as she embraced her grandson, Spc. Jarvis Washington of Macon.
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Taylor’s soldier is home, and so now is the majority of the 48th Brigade.
Col. Lee Durham, commander of the unit, will return home on Wednesday with several hundred more 48th Brigade troops. The remaining 48th Brigade soldiers will return home before the end of the month.
This is the second deployment for the brigade since 2005. The unit served a tour in Iraq in 2005 and 2006.
The experienced troops who were in Iraq four years ago are returning to experienced families.
“This is our second deployment, so I know not to put too much on him at one time,” said Latonia Merriweather. Her husband, Sgt. Donald Merriweather, a corrections officer in Macon in his civilian job, is a supply non-commissioned officer with the 48th Brigade.
The Merriweathers’ only plan? To “take it easy”, Latonia said.
A few family members welcoming the 48th Brigade veterans were themselves veterans.
Wearing a baseball cap with “Vietnam Veteran” embroidered across the front, Allen Jackson welcomed home his daughter, Sgt. Jacqueline Jackson of Savannah.
“She was in the desert, I was in the jungle,” Allen Jackson said.
In Afghanistan, the unit’s operations were directed from their headquarters in the Afghan capital of Kabul. In Georgia, many of the 48th Brigade’s operations were directed by people like Heather Hanson, the Family Readiness Group coordinator for the 148th BSB.
“If I didn’t check my e-mail for two or three days, I’ll have two or three emails from Heather Hanson,” said Tracie Washington, Jarvis Washington’s mother.
Hanson spent the last 12 months publishing a monthly newsletter and sending emails to let family members know about military discounts and support group meetings.
Her husband, Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Hanson, found out what a star his wife had become immediately after getting off the bus. “Everyone has been complimenting her,” a bleary-eyed Matthew Hanson said.
As is standard procedure, the homecoming was brief. The soldiers were given about 15 minutes with their families before loading back into the buses bound for the Fort Stewart barracks.
Their work is not yet done. The troops will be given Tuesday off to spend with their families, then will be recalled back to Fort Stewart for a week of administrative work and health screenings.
Few 48th Brigade soldiers planned on going wild immediately after returning home anyway.
When asked what his future plans were, Washington had a one-word answer.
To contact military writer Thomas L. Day, call 744-4489.