Multiple Deployments, Multiple Homecomings


Paisley Dorr, 2, investigates the large American Flag as she waits for her father's return.

What is a few hours delay when you’ve been away from home for more than a half-year? So it was for the Joint Communications Support Element company returning to MacDill Air Force Base Friday.

Parents, spouses, children and friends waited patiently munching on cookies and sipping bottled water. Children skipped around the cavernous bay. Behind a large American Flag hung from a support beam, older children played ping-pong. A group of veterans gathered near the entrance unfurling hand-held American Flags.

The din of multiple conversations faded quickly when the large garage door rolled opened. There was a moment’s hesitation … nothing was there. Then, the company marched into view led by a soldier carrying their “Patriots” banner.


Col. Burnham goes "off script" to thank his troops' families and ask them to remember and support the soldiers who replaced them.

There is a homecoming protocol. Col. William Burnham reports their return, there’s a prayer followed by a melodious rendition of the National Anthem sung by a fellow soldier. Before releasing the troops, Burnham went “off script” to thank his troops and their families.

He added a special thank you to the MacDill Enlisted Spouses Club and president Jackie Dorr (an Off the Base contributor) for making sure that every one of his returning troops had someone there to greet them and celebrate their homecoming. Sometimes it was at midnight, sometimes only a handful of soldiers returned, yet members of the ESC were there.

Then, the first sergeant asked the soldier: “Are you ready to do this?” They answer in unison: “Hooah.” The order comes: “Fall out.”

SSG Brian Dorr holds his daugher, Paisley, and his wife, Jackie, holds daugther, Anastin.

The quiet hall erupts in cheers, screams, laughter and tears as families rush to their soldiers.

“This has been a long war for everybody and for most of these folks, this isn’t their first homecoming,” said Burnham “But, it never gets old. It is super sweet to come home to the loved ones after being gone so long.”

Burnham is quick to mention that it is important not to forget the folks who took their place because now those families are in the “same situation and still doing the deal down range that we’ve got to support.”

“This is why we go do what we do – to come home to safe families, safe neighborhoods  and safe cities,” Col. William Burnham who returned to his wife Jennifer. This was his second deployment of seven months or longer. He’s been deployed more times but for shorter periods of four months.

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