The “Brave Rifles” welcomed home approximately 80 members from a nine month deployment to Afghanistan on Feb. 1 at Cooper Field.

The 3rd Cavalry Regiment deployed about 1,200 soldiers in late May and early June 2016 in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel to train, advise and assist Afghanistan National Army forces in taking control of their nation. An additional 500 soldiers later deployed in July 2016.

The unit is passing control of the mission to the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, from Fort Bliss.

About 500 of the deployed soldiers returned early in time for the Christmas holidays and the remaining soldiers are expected to be home by mid-February.

“To our Brave Rifles troopers, welcome home — we are incredibly proud of you,” said Col. Robert Whittle, 1st Cavalry Division home station commander. “To the families, thank you — you make us ‘Cav Strong.’ To all, be safe and take care of each other; we need you.”

With those short words, the families rushed the field to greet their returning soldiers.

Taylor Young said it felt “amazing” to have her husband, Cpl. James Young, finally home to meet their 6-month-old daughter Hannah.

“It was challenging, but I’m thankful for family — that helped,” she said. “He was very involved from far away, as much as he could be.”

Her husband wasn’t quite sure what to do with his infant daughter, who let her displeasure at being held by someone other than her “mommy” show.

“It feels good to see her, though,” James Young said. “We had Facetime over there, but holding her for the first time feels good.”

The young corporal said he wasn’t quite ready for daddy duties, but was definitely looking forward to finally being home and having the opportunity to relax.

James Young wasn’t the only soldier to meet a child for the first time. Spc. Benjamin Hopkins was met by his wife, Lisa, 16-month-old daughter Graceland and 6-week-old son Grayson.

“This is awesome — so nice and very surreal,” Hopkins said. “I’m looking forward to daddy duties!”

The soldier pointed to his young daughter and added, “This one was his size when I left!”

Lisa said she was ready to have her husband home.

“I am more than grateful and happy that he’s back,” she said. | 254-501-7554

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