Jessica Boyd kisses her finance, Pfc. Michael Harvey, during his homecoming Friday night with other soldiers in the 2nd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, at Fort Hood’s Cooper Field. The battalion uncased its colors after returning from deployment to Iraq.
Beverly Parks hugs her son, Pfc. Michael Harvey, at a homecoming ceremony for the 2nd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, Friday at Fort Hood.

Killeen Daily Herald

FORT HOOD — Cooper Field buzzed with unusual energy Friday night during the homecoming and uncasing of colors for 2nd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division.

Members of the crowd screamed out their soldiers’ names as Lt. Col. Robert Wright led the typically solemn uncasing and 1st Cavalry Division rear detachment commander Col. Philip Battaglia’s standard speech elicited more “Hooahs” and whoops than ever.

Soldiers deserve a good night’s sleep in their own beds, a good meal, and “perhaps a drink or two. But remember, don’t go making up for the whole year at once,” said Battaglia, as families and friends of the battalion cheered.

Among them were Pfc. Michael Harvey’s loved ones, including his mother, Beverly Parks, and fiancee, Jessica Boyd.

Parks, who flew in from Indiana Thursday night after receiving a 48-hour confirmation call that her son was coming home, spent the following day getting to know Boyd, whom her son began dating during his deployment. The two got engaged four months ago, during Harvey’s mid-tour leave. The couple plans to marry next month.

“I was kind of an outside source for the real world for him,” said Boyd, 18, of their correspondence during the deployment, which became “instant love” during the soldier’s leave. In turn, said the Leander resident, Harvey “is so funny. He just keeps me laughing whenever I want to cry.”

Parks, 50, said she couldn’t wait to tell her son: “I’m glad you’re home safe” and spend more time with her future daughter-in-law.

“I just know you’re the one,” she told Boyd. “I feel it in my heart, I can tell.”

After being released from formation, Harvey didn’t take long to start cracking jokes. Smushing his face with his hands, he described being squashed on the plane ride home between two large soldiers, “like this.”

The 23-year-old soldier said he was most looking forward to a “real meal” of Chinese food and beer after 11 months in Iraq. Asked if he also was looking forward to getting to know his fiancée better, he smiled and said, “Yes, ma’am,” with a twinkle in his eye.

Greeting his family on the field, Wright said the unit spent much of its time in Iraq securing a 360-kilometer stretch of Tampa, the main supply route from Baghdad to Kuwait.

Despite the dangerous conditions along the highway earlier in the war, Wright said Tampa was relatively safe and controlled largely by Iraqi security forces. “I like to say they were securing Tampa, and we were assisting them.”

All 282 soldiers who deployed with the unit came home, he added.

Arriving the day after the official end of the Iraq War “is a good feeling, knowing we were able to accomplish the mission,” Wright said. “For the 1 million-plus soldiers that have deployed over there in the last eight years, to see it come to a close, it’s just a good feeling.”