Above: Staff Sgt. Chris Ryder, 3rd Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, looks over a piece of paper describing the sex of his unborn child, as his wife, Sgt. Aleta Ryder, holds their daughter, McKenzy, during his homecoming ceremony Thursday at Fort Hood following a yearlong deployment to Iraq
Sgt. Statler Williams, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, greets his wife, Rachel Williams; son, Dallas Williams, 12; daughter, Savannah Williams, 10; and stepson, Tristan Taylor, 8, during his homecoming ceremony Thursday at Fort Hood

By Amanda Kim Stairrett
Killeen Daily Herald

FORT HOOD — Aleta Ryder handed her husband a white envelope late Thursday morning.

Staff Sgt. Chris Ryder returned from a year in Iraq with several hundred other soldiers of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, and Aleta and their daughter, McKenzy, just welcomed him home with hugs and kisses.

Chris opened the envelope and found a black-and-white photo and folded piece of paper. The photo was of the Ryders’ unborn baby. The paper told him it was a son.

Chris smiled and tears welled up in his eyes. Aleta cried. Chris found his buddies and proudly showed them the photo and letter.

The Ryders’ second child is due Dec. 5. Three or four weeks ago, Aleta went to Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center for an ultrasound and asked the staff to put the photo and information detailing the baby’s sex in a sealed envelope. She wanted to wait until Chris returned from Iraq so they could share the special news together.

“He really wanted a boy,” Aleta said.

The Ryders were married not long before Chris deployed. They met at a motocross track in 2009, but didn’t talk until they both attended the Warrior Leader Course at Fort Hood.

Yes, Aleta is a soldier, too. She is a sergeant assigned to the 74th Multi-Role Bridge Company, 62nd Engineer Battalion, 36th Engineer Brigade.

Chris has deployed three times to Iraq. Aleta has deployed twice.

It was a difficult year, she said, between trying to raise McKenzy by herself, trying to be a noncommissioned officer and lead her soldiers and dealing with the stress of Chris being in a dangerous environment.

“I’m not complaining,” Aleta said. “We did it.”

More soldiers from the regiment are expected to arrive today at Fort Hood. They will be welcomed home at an evening ceremony at the parade field east of regimental headquarters at Fort Hood.

Large groups of soldiers started arriving from the Middle East on Monday and are expected to continue through late August.

The regiment provides a 24-hour homecoming hotline at (254) 553-3269 or (254) 288-5557. Soldiers manning the hotlines are authorized to answer limited questions, but will direct further questions toward the regiment’s family readiness support assistants, according to information from 3rd Armored Cavalry.

Loved ones designated as contacts by their soldiers will receive notification of the troops’ arrivals about 72 hours before their returns. Families will be directed how to properly seek visitors’ passes from the Marvin Leath Visitors Center. Signs will direct drivers to the ceremony site.

The ceremony site is located across the street from Mabry Hall on Battalion Avenue and between the Fairbanks Dental Clinic and shoppette. Friends and families of the regiment are encouraged to park directly behind regimental headquarters or adjacent to Sabre Squadron’s headquarters, Mabry Hall. Bleachers are located in an air-conditioned tent.