Soldiers from the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment prepare to be welcomed home by their family and friends during their homecoming ceremony Wednesday at Fort Hood.

By Amanda Kim Stairrett
Killeen Daily Herald

FORT HOOD — Barbie Vogel didn’t know what to expect a year ago when her husband, Pvt. Charles Vogel, deployed for the first time.

She didn’t understand why he couldn’t chat online with her sometimes and got worried if he was later than usual when logging on to his computer.

It took the Vogels’ friends, fellow 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment troopers deployed to Iraq with Charles, to help her understand what a deployment was like from their end.

Those talks and friendships were “very important,” Barbie said Wednesday at Fort Hood’s Ohana Place, formerly known as the 19th Street Chapel.

“Without them, I wouldn’t have been able to make it,” she said.

Barbie wasn’t on post Wednesday to welcome Charles back from Iraq. Not yet, anyway. He’s set to arrive later this summer. She was there to greet one of their friends, Sgt. Patrick Dougherty.

Dougherty, 1st Squadron, arrived in Central Texas with about 45 of the regiment’s troopers, the first to return from a yearlong deployment. The soldiers are part of “torch flights” and advance parties who will prepare for the return of the regiment.

Several other women from Barbie’s family readiness group waited at the chapel for Dougherty. They didn’t want him to come home and be by himself, she said.

The group has spent their time recently decorating barracks rooms and filling them with essentials for returning unmarried soldiers. Aside from the toiletries and homemade items placed in each room, soldiers got mints donated by Olive Garden on their pillows.

One of those rooms was Dougherty’s. Barbie said projects like that are important because the soldiers deserve it and it’s something she’d want if she were returning from a deployment.

Dougherty is a good friend and Barbie wanted to be waiting for him because he was the one who introduced Barbie and Charles to Fort Hood when they first arrived and helped them adjust to Army life. The couple had no idea where to go or what to do when they moved to Texas, and Dougherty was there for them.

“He’s awesome,” Barbie said.

Barbie was thankful that she and Charles made such close friends with soldiers in the regiment because it made the deployment easier on her. Many of their friends deployed before and she was reassured knowing they had experience in dangerous situations.

The Vogels’ friends promised they wouldn’t let anything happen to Charles and Barbie felt better, “even though I knew they were saying it just to make me feel better,” she said with a smile.