Even with a new photo every day during deployment to chronicle his son’s growth, Spc. Austin Sigers, 36th Engineer Brigade, was amazed by the changes he saw in the 4-month-old when they reunited at a homecoming ceremony Thursday.
“He’s huge.” Sigers said moments after embracing his baby and teary-eyed wife, Jessica Martinez, for the first time since leaving for Liberia in November.
Sigers deployed just two weeks after his son’s birth.
“We weren’t sure if he was going to make it, but we made it happen. I didn’t know if I was going to be able to do it by myself,” Martinez said. “It was hard, but I was just glad he was there to share that with me.”
With his father’s name and features, Martinez said their son, Austin Jr., was a constant reminder of Sigers’ absence.
“It was very emotional because he looks so much like my husband,” she said. “I see my husband in him, and I just wish we could have shared everything with him.”
Sigers was one of 200 in the group to return to Fort Hood after deploying to West Africa in support of operations to contain the Ebola virus.
During the homecoming ceremony, the brigade’s 62nd Engineer Battalion uncased its colors, signifying its official return to Fort Hood.
“I couldn’t be prouder of my soldiers and their performance,” said Lt. Col. Michael Baker, battalion commander.
Baker said his troops built 10 Ebola treatment units, three mobile labs, and set up and operated the second largest American camp in the country.
The unit’s soldiers began returning to Fort Hood in January, and another group arrived this week.
Upon returning from West Africa, each soldier is required to spend three weeks in North Fort Hood’s controlled monitoring site before reuniting with loved ones.
Sigers said the 21-day stint was difficult, but necessary.
“It’s way harder knowing that we were only 25 miles away from my wife and my son,” he said. “It was a definite countdown.”
In addition to those from the 36th Engineer Brigade, four soldiers from the 85th Civil Affairs Brigade also returned home Thursday.