Ft. Hood welcomes troops just before holidays

In this photo taken Saturday, Dec. 19, 2009, Elizabeth and Gerald Kowalski kiss as she welcomes him home from Afghanistan during a ceremony in Fort Hood, Texas. Soldiers were returning home to their families in time for the holiday season. (AP Photo/Thao Nguyen)

December 21, 2009 4:58:36 AM PST
Victoria Buhman has been preparing to make her baby's first Christmas special, but she knew it wouldn't be perfect unless her husband returned from Iraq in time. Less than a week before the holiday, Buhman got her wish. At a welcome ceremony on a cold night in a Fort Hood field, she and her husband were among several hundred families who were reunited.

The Bahamans embraced and kissed while other families and couples jumped into each other's arms. Some children squealed "There's my Daddy!" and other relatives waved American flags, balloons and signs that read "Welcome Home" and "You're My Hero."

Buhman's husband found her in the crowd after seeing her cradling their 5-month-old son as her friend held up a large sign: "1st Lt. Buhman Report for Kisses Here."

"It feels good to be back and to be with my family," Scott Buhman said Saturday night after seeing his wife and baby Colton. "It's more special to be back now because I'll be with my wife and new son on his first Christmas."

About 1,400 1st Cavalry Division soldiers have returned to Fort Hood in the past week, including 300 on Saturday night and 350 on Sunday morning, and an additional 450 are due back by Christmas. They served in Iraq about a year.

The troops are among some 16,000 1st Cavalry soldiers returning to the central Texas Army post over a four-month period that ends in February. The 2nd Brigade was supposed to return sometime in December, and Army officials tried to make sure that most of them would be back before the holidays.

"Many soldiers have deployed several times, and you miss at least one of everything -- a birthday, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas," Maj. Chad Carroll, a 1st Cavalry Division spokesman, said Sunday. "Every time you can give soldiers one of those holidays, it means a lot -- to the soldiers and their families."

Ashley Smith's husband is among those due back by Christmas. "When I found out when he was coming home, I was so excited," said Smith, who was with her friend Victoria Buhman on Saturday to greet Scott Buhman. "Don't even get me started."

Glorimar Paredes was waiting at Saturday's ceremony for her husband, Spc. Josue Paredes, to return from his second deployment. She said this deployment was harder for her because she recently had a baby, Pablo, when her husband had to leave. They also have an 8-year-old son, Gabriel.

"We're from Puerto Rico, so we always have a Christmas Eve dinner and dance with a lot of our friends," she said. "He's back, so we feel complete now."

Glorimar Paredes said it was also hard dealing with the Nov. 5 mass shooting on the post that killed 13 and wounded scores more. She said she was in a school at Fort Hood that day and had to stay inside for hours as part of the lockdown.

An Army psychiatrist, Maj. Nidal Hasan, has been charged with premeditated murder and attempted premeditated murder. He remains at a San Antonio military hospital, recovering from wounds that left him paralyzed.


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