Emotional reunion as Fort Bliss soldiers return home from 9-month deployment
Members of the 1st Armored Division Sustainment Brigade touched down at Fort Bliss on Monday after a nine-month deployment to Afghanistan.
“It's just great to be back and see El Paso as you're flying in. It's good to be home,” said Col. Michael Lalor.
After nine months overseas and a 19-hour flight, the soldiers finally arrived home.
As soon as they got off the plane, they were greeted by the lively sounds of a marching band.
Commanders and first sergeants shook each soldier’s hand as they walked to the hangar to check in.
An hour later, after the logistics had been taken care of, they finally got to experience the long-awaited moment of reuniting with their families.
“Praise to God, I can't explain it. It's just hard. It's been a great deployment. Glad to be reunited with my family,” said Jimmie Leonard, who was met by his wife and two young children.
Hundreds of loved ones awaited their soldiers, holding signs to welcome them back as they marched through the door and into their arms.
“I said it this morning: This is my Christmas Day right here. It couldn't get any better than this,” Lalor said.
And for some, it was an even sweeter homecoming.
Charles Sandlin got to meet his five-month-old daughter for the first time.
He was just one of many soldiers getting to hold their children for the first time.
“I was trying not to cry because everyone was around, so I was trying not to cry, but I let it go. It was emotional,” Sandlin said.
“We've waited for this moment for a long time, especially him, and him not being here for her birth, that was emotional at the same time, but the homecoming is always the best part,” said his wife, Brooklyn Sandlin.
For 60 percent of the soldiers, it was their first time being deployed.
Now, after nine months in Afghanistan, it’s all about spending time with family.
“I’ll probably take them and have some time to sit down and just talk and just be together. No big plans. Just take (my son) to karate class tomorrow. It's just the little things,” Leonard said.