Chief Warrant Officer-5 Bill Miller, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, kisses his wife, Crystal Miller, during his homecoming ceremony with fellow soldiers from the 4th Combat Aviation Brigade Monday at Abrams Physical Fitness Center at Fort Hood. Monday’s flight of soldiers marks the first wave returning from Afghanistan to Fort Hood with the brigade.
Family and friends of soldiers in the 4th Combat Aviation Brigade cheer as soldiers file into Abrams Physical Fitness Center Monday at Fort Hood.
Staff Sgt. Gregory Giaimo, Bravo Company, 404th Aviation Support Battaltion, 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, kisses his wife, Stephanie Giaima, during his homecoming ceremony with fellow soldiers from the 4th Combat Aviation Brigade Monday at Fort Hood’s Abrams Physical Fitness Center

Chief Warrant Officer-2 John Jordan, 4th Battalion, 4th Aviation Regiment, 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, sits on his luggage while waiting for a ride with his father, John Jordan of Spartanburg, S.C., after his homecoming ceremony with fellow soldiers from the brigade Monday at Fort Hood’s Abrams Physical Fitness Center.

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By Amanda Kim Stairrett
Killeen Daily Herald

FORT HOOD — Deborah Holston deployed during the Gulf War when her son, Antwain, was just a baby.

Antwain is 22 now and an information technologist in the 4th Infantry Division’s 4th Combat Aviation Brigade. The specialist returned to Fort Hood from Afghanistan on Monday with about 40 from the brigade.

Monday’s group was the first to return after a yearlong deployment to northern Afghanistan. Soldiers will begin to flow back in June and the brigade is expected to be back at Fort Hood by mid-July, said Lt. Col. Whit Jones, the brigade’s rear detachment commander. Another flight of advance-party soldiers is set to return to Fort Hood next week.

Deborah and her daughter, Briana, were among the families gathered at Abrams Physical Fitness Center to welcome the soldiers home.

“It’s different being on the other side of a deployment,” Deborah said.

She and her husband were soldiers and deployed during their careers. It was an emotional time for Deborah because she deployed knowing she could come home to children who might not recognize her.

Standing on the other side, watching her son come home and knowing he was safe was “awesome,” she said.

“You just feel so many different emotions at once,” Deborah said. “You just thank God. It’s been an awesome ride, that’s for sure.”

It wasn’t a surprise that Antwain followed in his parents’ footsteps and joined the Army, his mother said. He was an “Army brat” like all her children.

It wasn’t until he deployed that she realized being the parent of a soldier took on a whole different meaning. Still, Deborah’s time in uniform gave her more understanding of what her son was experiencing.

She didn’t fear for his safety earlier this month when news came that al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden was killed during a U.S.-led raid in Pakistan. Though retaliation and a rise in violence was predicted, Deborah remained confident in her son and the skills of those around him. The training kicks in, she said Monday. Men and women stick together and they know what to do.

“This is what they were trained to do,” she said.

It could still get touchy over there, but it’s like that every day. Troops will still have to take precautions and look over their shoulders, she added.

The Holstons traveled from their home in Orlando, Fla., to greet Antwain. They haven’t had contact with other military families during the deployment and Deborah said that was difficult.

“Military families, we stick together,” she said. “That was a little tough.”

They kept their and Antwain’s spirits up by sending regular care packages filled with “a little piece of home” — cookies, brownies and other snacks. Others wanted to help, too, Deborah said, especially her co-workers.

“They just genuinely care,” she said.