ELLINGTON AIR RESERVE BASE, Texas -- This base is located in the fourth largest city in the U.S., Houston, that is home to Mission Control, the Houston Texans and 32 redeploying Soldiers who spent ten months in Afghanistan. Soldiers of Charlie Company, 451st Civil Affairs Battalion were recognized in a Welcome Home Warrior-Citizen Ceremony hosted by Lt. Col. Michael Howard, commander of the 451st, here, Jan. 12.
Former Major League Baseball player, and Houston native, Roger Clemens was the guest speaker as family members, Soldiers' employers, peers and colleagues, filled a tent right on the airfield where Air Force drone and fighter jets were located nearby.
"My brother served and I had many uncles who served," said Clemens. "Because of these troops, we get to do a job that we love doing and feel safe doing it."
Clemens, who was born and raised in Houston, played baseball for Spring Woods High School and eventually played college baseball at the University of Texas and four different baseball teams, felt that representing his hometown was important.
"When I have the opportunity to thank the troops, I'll do it," Clemens said. "I just enjoy seeing their discipline and how they work together and we can only appreciate that."
The group of 32 Soldiers was made up of civil affairs, supply, and medical specialists who helped provide support to many provinces in Afghanistan. They worked with local elders in helping provide bridge and road structures and building schools for the local villages.
"It's an honor to deploy with a great group of guys," said Spc. Darrell Fales, a civil affairs specialist. "It's great to go there and come back as one team and bringing everyone home."
Fales also works part time as a paramedic for Minute Maid Park (home of the Houston Astros) and appreciated having someone like Roger Clemens to meet with the troops.
"He [Clemens] started his roots here. He's home grown. He's supportive of the community and makes an attempt to come out here and hang out with the guys." added Fales.
This was not the first time Clemens visited Soldiers of the 451st. Six years prior, he did the same thing as Soldiers were welcomed back by the community at Minute Maid Park after their tour in Iraq.
"The reason why we invited Roger is he is very supportive of the military," said Maj. Michael Creeden, the commander of Charlie Company. Creeden added that the Soldiers appreciate someone popular like Clemens to be here.
The commander of the 350th Civil Affairs Command, Brig. Gen. Mark McQueen handed out the Welcome Home Warrior-Citizen Award to each of the redeploying Soldier for their contribution as a Soldier and as a Warrior Citizen. Soldiers' employers and family members were also recognized in supporting the unit while they were deployed.
"It feels good to have my family here today," said Sgt. Vicky Bratcher, supply sergeant for the 451st and a mother of four. "It makes me proud because I did something."
For Bratcher, being away from the kids was the hardest part of the deployment.
"With my youngest daughter turning one during the deployment, when I came back it was hard for me to adjust to her and her adjusting to me."
Staff Sgt. Ron Pena, a civil affairs specialist who carried his one-year-old daughter as she held an autographed baseball from Clemens, was fortunate to come back a month early to be home for the birth of his first child.
"Being back is always good, but being there for the birth of my child is even better," said Pena.
As the ceremony ended, so does the final saga to Charlie Company's deployment. Now these Soldiers will go back to their full time jobs, schools, and being a fathers and mothers.
"This ceremony is the conclusion to our deployment." added Bratcher, while holding her daughter's hand.