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Soldiers from 82nd CAB Celebrate Fall Fest

As he bumbled around the cockpit of the Kiowa helicopter Tuesday, 6-year-old Nick Furr called for his parents to make sure they were watching.

He slowed down only to ask questions, which his dad, Fort Bragg Spc. Byron Furr, happily answered.

Although fleeting, the moment was precious for the Furr family -- Bryon, Sarah, Nick and Zoey, -- as they celebrate the holidays with their soldier at home.

Like many military families, Thanksgiving for the Furr family was held over a video chat from overseas last year.

Spc. Furr is a member of the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, which has been broken up by consistent training exercises since its return from a deployment to Afghanistan.

So this year, brigade members gathered for Fall Fest at Simmons Army Airfield to pause and spend time with their families.

"We've been training very, very hard," said Col. Erik Gilbert, the brigade's commander. "When you've got this much going on and so many guys in so many different directions, it's about us all taking time together with the bigger team. And families are part of that team."

Last year, about 600 members of the brigade, then led by Col. Michael Musiol, were deployed to Afghanistan. The brigade served as Afghanistan's lone aviation task force at a time when it was in high demand, supporting the U.S. drawdown and then, with a much smaller force, continuing its role for a new mission with fewer troops spread across a larger geographical area.

Back at Simmons airfield, the Furr family stopped to check out the displays of Kiowas, Apaches and Black Hawk helicopters. Spc. Furr works on UH-60 Black Hawks.

Sarah Furr remembers talking to her children about their father's deployment last year. The family chatted with him as much as they could, she said.

Zoey, the youngest, didn't understand the deployment, but Nick was heartbroken, she said.

Nick, who loves to jump onto his bed while screaming, "Airborne!" missed his dad, she said.

"A lot of tears," Sarah Furr said. "This year, it's amazing beyond words. It feels like we're finally complete again after having one of us missing for so long."

The brigade's Fall Fest began with an early morning run at Simmons. While the soldiers ran, Apache, Kiowa, Chinook, Black Hawk and medical-evacuation aircraft hovered to a low altitude over the soldiers.

The day unwound as families mingled on the flight line to check out aircraft, play games and eat.

Catherine Rivas watched as her children, Daemian, 8, and Zoey, 4, played in the bounce houses. Her husband, Spc. Michael Rivas, was among those in Bagram, Afghanistan, last year.

It was the first deployment for Rivas, who does repair work on helicopters.

The children were upset and had wished their father was home for the holidays, Catherine Rivas said.

New traditions

This year, the family is eager to start new traditions for their first Thanksgiving with everyone together, including Kaemrin, who was born two months ago.

"I love it," Catherine said. "It's not just about him being home, but spending time as a family."

Sgt. Allen Glisson attended the brigade's Fall Fest with his wife, April, and their children, Deanna and Wyndul.

Glisson, who makes electrical repairs to AH-64 helicopters, joined the brigade in Fort Bragg about two months ago, after spending a year in South Korea.

April Glisson said she was thrilled to have him home this year.

"It's awesome," she said. "He wasn't here for any of the holidays last year."

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