FORT HOOD — Stephanie Ochoa, 27, was more than ready to “debrief” her husband Tuesday.
Holding up a sign that read “Welcome home Sgt. David Ochoa, prepare for your debriefing,” excitement and anticipation radiated from her petite frame.
Her daughter, Jocelyn, 8, also held up a sign that read “Hand over my daddy.”
“I can’t wait to hug him and spend time with him,” Jocelyn said.
The 1st Cavalry Division hosted a welcome home ceremony Tuesday at Cooper Field for “Black Jack” soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team.
More than 75 soldiers from the brigade returned after a six-month deployment to Afghanistan.
The brigade deployed in July for a nine-month deployment; however, as security gains were made and as the U.S. draws down troop levels in Afghanistan, select service members and units are able to return home ahead of schedule.
“He’s my best friend and when he’s not here with us, I don’t feel the same,” Stephanie Ochoa said of her childhood sweetheart.
This redeployment marked the family’s second deployment.
“This one was much shorter than our first. When he deployed the first time out of Fort Stewart, Ga., he was gone for a year and five months,” she recounted. “I’m just glad it’s over.”
Families who were eager to lay eyes on their loved ones for the first time since they left in July flocked to two TV monitors in the division’s headquarters building where they could watch their soldiers disembark from the airplane live.
“I can’t even watch,” Stephanie Ochoa said of the tease. “I just want to see him face to face.”
Keeping her distracted on the field was her mother-in-law, Sara Ochoa, and her brother-in-law, Andy.
“All I want to do is to hug my baby,” said Sara Ochoa, referencing her son. “As a mother, it’s hard to see your children go off to war, but I am so happy he is home early and that I could be here to welcome him home.”
As the crowd shouted the famous words, “Move that bus,” the soldiers emerged and made their way to their eager families.
“Mission accomplished and job well done,” said Col. Jeff Milhorn, division chief of staff. “I’m going to keep this short. On the count of the three, I want you to charge all the soldiers on the field this morning.”
After the brief countdown, families and soldiers embraced each other in a sea of hugs and kisses.
“It feels so good to be back home and to be with my family again,” said David Ochoa. “They are all that matter to me.”
Contact Vanessa Lynch at email@example.com or 254-501-7567.