Utah National Guard First Batallion Welcomed Home

The approximately 300 Soldiers of the Utah National Guard’s First Battalion, 211th Aviation returned to Utah from their 12-month deployment to Afghanistan in two groups Thursday, Jan. 17, and Sunday, Jan. 20, respectively, at the Utah Air National Guard Base in Salt Lake City.The mission of the 1-211th (First of the 211th) in Afghanistan was fly its AH-64D Apache Longbow helicopters to conduct aerial route reconnaissance and provide armed escort for U.S. and Coalition aircraft.

Waiting to welcome home the Utah National Guard’s First Battalion, 211th Aviation returned to Utah from their 12-month deployment to Afghanistan.

After a year in Afghanistan, about 300 soldiers of the Utah National Guard’s First Battalion, 211th Aviation returned in two groups Thursday, Jan. 17, and Sunday, Jan. 20, 2013.

The photo is taken at the Utah Air National Guard Base in Salt Lake City.

The mission of the 1-211th (First of the 211th) in Afghanistan was fly its AH-64D Apache Longbow helicopters to conduct aerial route reconnaissance and provide armed escort for U.S. and Coalition aircraft.

“My Daddy Come Home”

Friends help Jackie Dorr decorate the house for her husband's homecoming from his fouth deployment in their five years together.

I woke up thinking – it was finally happening. It was the day I get my family back!  My house buzzed with activity – all my friends and their children – as we did last minute cleaning preparing for my husband’s return.

Then came word, his last connection from Bangor, Maine was delayed. For a moment, it felt like it wasn’t going to happen.

As I did my hair and makeup, I couldn’t help but feel like it was my wedding day, and I was readying to see my groom.   We dressed the girls in their custom made dresses and their ruby red slippers, as Paisley calls them her “special come home Daddy shoes” and loaded up the car.

Paisley wanted to wear lipstick too for her Daddy's homecoming.

While everyone walked downstairs, I collected myself, and laid out the gifts I had gotten him to make up for missing Christmas, our anniversary and Valentines Day.  The whole drive to the compound, Krista calmed my nerves letting me know how amazingly happy she was for our family.

When we got to the compound, the bay was not quite ready but that didn’t matter, we would wait for hours if need be.  Paisley kicked off her shoes and ran around the CSD Bay, getting her little feet so dirty, but it didn’t matter she was excited and this made me happy.

Members of the MacDill Enlisted Spouses Club are known for their bright red shirts and for showing up for every homecoming not matter the time or number of returning troops.

Then 1600 came, and my phone rang. He had landed and they were getting on the buses heading to the compound.  It seemed unreal! “A bus just pulled up” Krista tells me.

We line up as close as we can, I can’t wait to see his face, and the thought of it brings tears to my eyes.  Paisley stands holding my hand, and then the door to the bay opens.  The silence is palpable as all the families stand waiting.  They march in one by one.  I kneel down next to Paisley and she sees him. “DADDY!! MY DADDY!! MAMA THAT’S MY DADDY!”

The Joint Communications Support Element, based at MacDill AFB.

The troops line up in formation, and we listen to first the 1Sgt and then Lt Col Burnham as they speak about their performance during this deployment, all the while Paisley stood confused.  She kept saying “Mama I want my Daddy”.  Then the words we waited for, he was released. 

I took off running towards where Brian was standing. He wasn’t there.  I turned and saw he ran around everyone the other direction towards us.  Paisley jumped into his arms “DADDY!!!”  Tears flowed down my cheeks as I watched my husband hold our oldest “princess. ” He kissed her and told her how much he missed her.

It didn't take long for Anastin, 8 months, to fall asleep in her Daddy's arms.

This was a stark difference to his last homecoming. Last time, she was terrified of him, this time she was so excited.  I was holding Anastin, and she was looking at Brian and Paisley, no doubt trying to figure it all out.  She turned 8 months this day, and for 7 months of her life her father has been gone.  I ask him if he wants to hold her, and warn him that she might cry as she has horrible separation anxiety.  He answers yes, and we swap children.

Anastin whimpered slightly but then was quiet. He kissed her and she took it all in.  Before we knew it, she had fallen asleep in her fathers arms.  Life is good, this is how it should be, a father holding his children.

Paisley has been attached to Brian’s hip since. He has been home, playing dress up and reading books.  She loves her Daddy and is enjoying having him home. 

SSG Brian Dorr plays with Paisley, his 2-year-old daughter, after returning from a seven-month deployment.

He has already returned to work, and at first she was upset by this, but he comes home for lunch and is home at night, which eases her concern.  We are taking life one step at a time, reintegration is never easy, and always comes with unique challenges.  A two year old can be overwhelming alone, but topped with an 8 month old with separation anxiety.  We take each day as it comes, and are all soaking in every second of having our family complete again.

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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