The tears of joy flowed freely early Tuesday morning during a redeployment ceremony for the 1st Combat Aviation Brigade.
Though the ceremony took place around 2 a.m., families were still present to greet their soldiers.
Present to offer support were the Lady Troopers.
The group bakes cookies for every deployment to send off the soldiers. Members also show up at every redeployment ceremony with refreshments as well. This practice started in 1991 for soldiers who fought in Operation Desert Storm.
Pat Bruzina, who joined the Lady Troopers shortly after the practice began, attended Tuesday morning's ceremony to help dole out cookies to attendees.
"My husband was a Vietnam vet, and we snuck him out of the country and we snuck him into the country," she said. "While he was gone, rocks were thrown at my car."
Finally, Bruzina removed the Oklahoma tags from her car and replaced them with ones from Washington state. Her husband, Buz, was stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington.
"When he came back, we had to sneak him in quietly," Bruzina said. "It was the middle of the night. He was in civilian clothes, and it was all very hush-hush."
It was her husband's first deployment.
It all struck her as extremely wrong that someone should go fight in a devastating war overseas only to be 'welcomed' home with scorn and violence when they returned. Bruzina resolved that if America ever went to war again, she would do everything in her power to see to it they were welcomed home properly.
This is why she chose to come out at around 1 a.m. to Fort Riley to welcome soldiers home.
Christina Forbes was among the spouses who showed up to meet her husband, Spc. Ronald Forbes, after 11 months apart.
"I'm excited," she said. "It's been 11 months. I'm ready.'
It was no struggle for her to make it to the ceremony, she said -- she's usually up early.
"It's just like any other day," Christina said. "Just a little more anxious."
Though the suspense was high, it was a happy occasion for her. This isn't, she said, her husband's first deployment. Christina had a few words of advice for young military spouses -- those new to the Army -- springing from her own experience.
"At first, it's hard finding your new normal," Christina said. "But once you find that normal, it gets a little bit easier. Just know that it's only a temporary stay in what seems like the inevitable. But it's totally worth it once they get home."
Capt. Matthew St. Clair returned home from his second deployment Tuesday morning.
"I was really happy to go out and train for nine months, to meet so many different nationalities and work with NATO partners and everything, but nothing beats coming home to the family," he said.
St. Clair was away from home for nine months.
"I think it almost gets harder just as my kids get older," he said. "I miss them more and I feel like I'm missing more. ... In some ways it gets easier, but it pulls at your heartstrings. [I'm] just so happy to be home."
He hopes to be home for an extended period of time.
According to Col. Bryan Chivers, this is no guarantee in the Army. Troops can be deployed at any time, if duty calls.
"We don't have any orders, but it's all about readiness," he said.
But for the next 48 hours the newly returned soldiers are on a pass to stay with their families, after which they will undergo reintegration exercises to ensure a smooth transition back home.
At this time, there are still about 22 soldiers waiting to return home. They're expected to be back by Nov. 15 or in that timeframe, Chivers said.
It feels good to see so many soldiers return home, he said. Many of them have been gone for about nine months.
"The length makes the heart grow fonder," Chivers said. "And so we're glad to be back to see family and of course the community."
This article was written by Lydia Kautz from Junction City Daily Union, Kan., and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.