By Rose L. Thayer
Killeen Daily Herald
FORT HOOD — The past week was a stressful one for Kerri Abbatacola. Not only was she due any day with her second son, her husband was also due home from Iraq. She was nervous it would all happen on the same day.
Lucky for her, baby Madden arrived Saturday night, and her husband, Capt. Justin Abbatacola, arrived Monday evening, during the advance party homecoming celebration for the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment.
“I was just really relieved that everything worked out,” she said while waiting for the troopers to arrive — both sons in tow.
The unit deployed to southern Iraq in late summer 2010 for its fourth tour.
“This is the first big welcome home,” said Capt. Jason Gallardo, a member of the regiment’s rear detachment. The torch flight arrived earlier in July to prepare for the rest of the unit’s arrival, which will continue through August.
“It’s thrilling,” said Louise Oliver, wife of Lt. Col. John Oliver, the regiment’s executive officer, who will arrive home next month.
Oliver, along with many other commanders’ wives, attended the homecoming to share their support. “Any soldier who walks through that door is a blessing,” Oliver said.
Violence picked up during the end of the unit’s year, said Lt. Col. Bryan Radliff, deputy commander, who arrived Monday with 130 other troops.
“We were in one of the most challenging environments in Iraq,” Radliff said.
Despite the obstacles, he said the unit accomplished a lot.
“Many of our soldiers got to see the impact we’ve made with the Iraqi people,” he said.
This was especially important to him because he has deployed with the unit three times, and was involved with much of the early planning process.
While it feels good to be home, Radliff said he’s eager to see the rest of the unit back home safely.
“I’ll be glad to see the last trooper get off the plane.”
As for the Abbatacola family, they are simply looking forward to time together.
“I’m ready to get back to normal life,” Justin said.