Monday, November 12, 2007

Welcome Assignment

Laura Busby, holding her 5-month-old son, Zachary, sheds tears of joy as she sees her husband, Sgt. Alan Busby, who returned home safely from Iraq Nov. 11, 2007.
4th Brigade soldiers have plenty of work waiting at home
November 12, 2007

With the war and the desert behind them for now, more than 300 paratroopers returned home Sunday night to snowy Fort Richardson, where a new assignment awaited many of them.

Their extended tour of duty in Iraq may be over. But their diaper duty is just beginning.

Christopher Facko of the 1st Squadron, 40th Cavalry, went straight from the airplane to the hospital, where his wife, Sarah, was waiting with their 4-hour-old baby boy, Christiaan Ryan.

Sgt. Albert Fambrough, another member of the squadron, headed to Buckner Fieldhouse on the base, where his wife and their 11-month-old twins were part of a cheering, crying crowd eager to greet the latest wave of Fort Rich soldiers back from Iraq.

Fambrough didn't get the open-armed welcome most soldiers expect when they return from war. His wife had her hands full with Hunter and Harley, twin boys who were reluctant to leave the arms of their mother and go to a man they last saw nine months ago.

Fambrough tried to hold each boy, but both clung to 20-year-old Chasity, the only parent they've known in their young lives. Though Chasity had kept the babies moderately subdued during their three-hour wait at the fieldhouse, both started crying when the gym came alive with the sound of cheers, whistles and shouts as the troops marched in.

Wearing fatigues and carrying backpacks, laptops and plastic grocery bags, 331 troops lined up for the playing of the national anthem, a prayer and brief remarks by Hazen Baron, the chief of staff for the U.S. Army Alaska.


It was the second planeload of troops to return from Iraq, where 3,500 members of Fort Richardson's 4th Brigade served for 16 months. The first 100 arrived a week ago, another 100 are due home tonight, and the rest will arrive a couple hundred at a time between now and mid-December.

They're coming home to wives, husbands and children whose lives marched on without them.

Facko thought he'd be home in time for the birth of his first child, who was due Nov. 17, but his son -- and his wife, who got pregnant during Facko's two-week leave in February -- couldn't wait for him.

Sarah, 24, started having contractions Friday night and went to the hospital at Elmendorf Air Force Base on Sunday morning. She had the baby at 2:30 p.m., about three hours before the troops landed.

Among those returning to see newborns on the verge of toddlerhood was Staff Sgt. John Presley, who didn't even know his wife was pregnant when he deployed Oct. 3. Lisa Cannon found out about a month after her husband left and waited three months before telling him.

Presley timed his two-week leave perfectly, coming home four days before Cannon Presley was born June 28. He returned to Iraq when his daughter was 4 days old. Now she's 4 months old.

"I sent him a picture at least every other day," Lisa said.

E-mailed photos kept Fambrough up to speed on his twins so he recognized them Sunday, even if they weren't sure who he was.

Thanks to near-daily updates and photos from Chasity, he knew that Hunter's the one with red hair and Harley's the one who just learned to walk. Though attempts to pass the boys from mother to father failed, Fambrough busied himself by emptying a box of juice into Hunter's sippy cup.

Fambrough, 23, re-enlisted during his tour of duty, even though he described his time in Iraq as a bit of a nightmare.

"It was like waking up from a bad dream every day," he said.

He knows his future may include a return trip to Iraq, but he re-enlisted because he likes the Army, he likes how the Army takes care of his family, and he likes serving his country.

"I do feel we made a difference," he said. "Toward the end there were less IEDs, less soldiers getting hurt and security was getting better."

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