‘Welcome home! Hooah?’ Capt. John Forte asks families
Published: Friday, February 8, 2013
Updated: Friday, February 8, 2013 09:02
The 420th Engineer Company stood in formation in the Memorial Field house Wednesday, just feet away from their families.
The soldiers were stoic at first, but as they searched the crowd for their loved ones, they fought back smiles.
“Hooah,” the crowd replied.
The soldiers had just returned from 13 months away from home.
Mothers, fathers, children, siblings and supporters sat patiently in on the bleachers at the Field House.
Captain Forte then listed their accomplishments during their tour of northern and eastern Afghanistan and described the experience.
“These soldiers were responsible for an area the size of Oklahoma,” Forte said.
“They had 480 missions during their 309 days in-theater. You can do the math on that.”
The unit received one Bronze Star with Valor Medal, 23 Bronze Star Medals, 110 Army Commendation Medals, six Meritorious Service Medals, 32 Army Achievement Medals, 14 Purple Hearts, 110 Combat Action Badges, four Combat Medic Badges and one Combat Action Streamer.
And after spending their time clearing roads of improvised explosive devices, texting and Skyping their loved ones nine time zones away, they were released to their families Wednesday afternoon.
Emotion poured through the Field House as families and friends rushed to their soldiers.
One soldier bumps knuckles with his toddler. Another is kissed so hard by her mother that her cover falls to the ground. An officer encircles his wife and daughter in a camouflage bear-hug.
Before this, the 420th Engineers deployed to Iraq during 2004.
This tour was easier for Lisa Bush, wife of Sgt. 1st Class Doug Bush, and her four children.
“During the first deployment, when my husband came home for his R&R, our little girl didn’t even recognize him,” Lisa said. “But now that they’re a lot older they have a lot more appreciation and a lot more honor.”
Doug had a cell phone and was able to text every day to give updates. Occasionally they would Skype, but the Internet was too slow to use video.Connie Forte, husband of Capt. Forte, echoed the sentiment that this tour was easier for her to endure.
However, it was not easier for their 12-year-old daughter, Lauren, who said she didn’t remember the last tour.
“Lauren would have been only four at that time,” Connie said, “so she’s a lot older and a lot more aware of the news.
“I avoid the news. They’re right when they say no news is good news.”