FORT HOOD — Families waving banners and snapping photos packed the Bronco Youth Center on Monday to welcome home 119 soldiers from the 59th Mobility Augmentation Company, 8th Engineer Battalion, 36th Engineer Brigade.

The soldiers spent nine months in Afghanistan on a route clearance mission.

“They did an outstanding job,” said Lt. Col. Kenneth N. Reed, battalion commander. “It was a remarkable performance.”

Tom and Tracy Blair traveled from Pennsylvania to welcome home their son, 1st Lt. Andrew Blair. Along with them, they brought their younger son, Matthew, an Army ROTC cadet at Pennsylvania State University, and Andrew Blair’s girlfriend, Sarah Losen.

“It’s been tense,” Tracy Blair said. This is the lieutenant’s first deployment, and his parents waited anxiously for his return, fearing the worst every time they heard about a casualty overseas.

“The first thing he wants to do is make a homemade pizza,” Tracy Blair said with a laugh, adding her son loves to cook.

The family plans to spend Thanksgiving together.

During the deployment, Losen took advantage of her time, pursuing her career in graphic design.

At times, it was difficult with little communication, she said. “You want to give him a little piece of home,” Losen said. But now, the couple of six years is ready to settle down and make Texas their home for the time-being.

As Andrew Blair hugged his family members, his brother, Matthew, said he was following in the same path. In six months, he will be commissioned as a second lieutenant, continuing the family tradition of service.

“I feel happy ... and relieved,” said Tracy Blair as she wiped away tears, delighted to have her family reunited.

Contact Madison Lozano​ at mlozano@kdhnews.com or 254-501-7552.

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