A Spokane-based Army Reserve unit’s ranks had grown when 22 soldiers returned Friday from a year in Kuwait.
There were five infants among the 70 family members who welcomed home members of the 643rd Automated Cargo Documentation Detachment.
For some of the new fathers, Friday’s ceremony at the new reserve center at Fairchild Air Force Base was only the second time they had seen their babies.
Reardan resident Rebecca Roger said her husband, Steven Roger, last saw their 6-month-old son, Dylan, during a leave for the boy’s birth.
Steven Roger said Internet communications helped ease the strain. He also learned what’s waiting for him at home.
“I’ve got some yardwork to do,” he said. “I’ve seen pictures.”
Robert Murray, of Omak, said he just wanted to stay home for a while and hang out with his 1-year-old son, Hunter.
“I’ve already missed so much,” Murray said.
“Hunter is growing up fast,” first-time mother Aleshia Murray said.
The couple were married in July 2009, and Hunter was born three days before his father shipped out in September 2009.
Now, Aleshia Murray said, “We are going to renew our vows, and I’m going to go to college and he’s going to go to college, and we’re officially going to start our family.”
Another first child, Connor Adams, also was born days before father Nicholas Adams left their Spokane home.
“It’s been hard being a mother and a father at the same time,” Angela Adams said.
Specialist Tom Eylar’s greeting squad filled a cafeteria table in Fairchild’s new reserve center. In addition to his parents, Greg and Jeannie Eylar, of Colton, Wash., there were a brother, an aunt and a couple of grandparents.
“You should have seen when we sent him off,” Greg Eylar said. “There were 20 or 30 people.”
Eylar’s grandfather, Jim Dellwo – a cousin of former Spokane City Councilman Bob Dellwo and a World War II veteran – wore the cap of his Choteau, Mont., American Legion post.
Dellwo served in the Army’s 385th Antiaircraft Artillery and saw action in the Battle of the Bulge.
“I didn’t, thank God, get in D-Day, but we went two weeks later and we set up to protect the others that came in,” Dellwo recalled. “I was 20 years old, and now I’m 87.”
He said he was glad to get home uninjured. His son, Tom, a U.S. Military Academy graduate, didn’t come back from Vietnam.
Dellwo said he was happy his grandson went to Kuwait “because I figured it wouldn’t be quite as bad as Iraq.”
Chief Warrant Officer Jack Berger, the unit commander, said the 643rd loaded more than 145 cargo ships, carrying 35,500 containers, vehicles and other equipment, in 120-degree temperatures that seemed like 140 because of humidity.
“At night, it would cool down to 105 or so,” he said.
Berger’s wife, Susan – a veteran of many separations in 32 years of marriage – was waiting for him Friday with their four adult children.