By Colleen Flaherty
Killeen Daily Herald
FORT HOOD — Sgt. Winston DeBlanc met his third daughter for the first time Tuesday night, when he returned from a yearlong tour to Iraq with Brigade Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 4th Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division.
“It felt awesome,” he said upon seeing 3-month-old Skylar who, perhaps overwhelmed by the circle of family and friends surrounding her on Cooper Field, promptly spit up on his shoulder.
Sgt. DeBlanc’s wife, Ruthie, laughed and joked, “Welcome home, Daddy!”
Ruthie and her other daughters, Delaney, 3, and Morgan, 18 months, waited for their own hugs following the homecoming.
Also on DeBlanc’s flight were Col. Brian Winski, brigade commander, and Command Sgt. Maj. Antoine B. Overstreet, the brigade’s senior noncommissioned officer. They led the uncasing of the brigade’s colors at the ceremony, signalling the end of its fourth and final deployment to Iraq.
Brigade troopers began returning from Iraq last month. All are now home from their advise-and-assist mission in northern Iraq, including disputed territory on the Kurdish-Iraqi border.
Two brigade troopers were killed in action in Iraq, and one died in a non-combat related incident.
Upon leaving, Long Knife troopers relinquished the mission to their Iraqi and Kurdish counterparts, Winski said, adding that he had “the highest level of confidence” in their ability to maintain regional stability.
DeBlanc, 26, deployed to Iraq two weeks before his wife found out she was pregnant, she said. He missed the birth of their first child while he was at basic training.
“I think it was harder for him this time than it was the first time,” said Ruthie, 25. “With the first baby, he didn’t really know what he was missing. But he was here for the pregnancy and the birth of our second child, and got to spend a good six months with her before he left. Now he knows what he’s missing.”
The sergeant agreed.
“It was a lot easier with the other two,” he said, beaming at his newest daughter.
Ruthie DeBlanc said she got through the deployment and birth with the help of her church family from Killeen’s Memorial Baptist Church, some of whom attended the ceremony. The DeBlancs live at Fort Hood.
Friend Meleaha Andrade, 25, whose husband is currently deployed to Afghanistan with the Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division, said her husband also missed the birth of their first child in during a deployment in 2006.
She was excited to watch the DeBlancs reunite as a family of five, she said.
“To be on the outside looking in, I always love it when soldiers to come home and are reunited with their families,” she said. “It’s humbling. Everything that you went through goes away when you see those white buses (carrying soldiers) pull up.”