Tears of joy flowed at the West Fort Hood Physical Fitness Center Tuesday, as families were reunited with their Soldiers, following a nine-month deployment to Southwest Asia in support of Operation Spartan Shield.
More than 80 troops from Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 69th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, returned to the Great Place after supporting the U.S. Army Central Command area of responsibility.
“It’s important to think about why we do what we do, and a lot of it – it’s because of our families. It gives us a reason to do our job, keep busy and come back,” Maj. Richard Rogers, acting deputy commander, said.
The HHB, 69th ADA Bde. mission, which provided protection across five countries, was to engage and destroy any ballistic or aerial threat targeting U.S. and coalition forces. The unit oversaw air defense artillery assets from Fort Hood, Fort Bliss, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and Fort Sill, Oklahoma, while coordinating air and missile defense for the Army, Air Force, Navy and coalition defense forces.
The unit has been “Guarding the Skies” since 1918. Since then, the Lightning Brigade has been deployed four times.
Knowing the Soldiers and families were anxious to reunite, the unit kept the ceremony brief, with the entire thing lasting about five minutes.
“I’m very excited,” Maj. Shemeia Gilmore-Perry, said after reuniting with her husband and daughter. “It’s been a long nine months.”
Perla Villegas, wife of Spc. Jacob Villegas, agreed that it was a long nine months, but said they were able to stay in touch via Facetime and a lot of phone calls. She credited her focus on her children, 4-year-old Steven and 2-year-old Luke, with keeping her motivated during the difficult time.
Tears streaming down her face, Lindsey Hays bear-hugged her husband, Spc. Michael Hays. With her legs wrapped around his waist, Hays carried his wife outside, cherishing the emotional moment.
“I can’t even think straight,” Lindsey said through her tears. “We’ve been married for five years and this was the first time we were apart.”
HHB, 69th ADA Bde., turned over control of the air defense mission to the HHB, 108th ADA Bde., from Fort Bragg before returning back to the Great Place.
“On behalf of family and friends of the 69th home safety team, welcome home,” Rogers said. “Thank you for coming home safe and sound and being with us once again.”
1st Lt. Colton Kiselica, 69th ADA Bde. Public Affairs, contributed to this article.