FORT HOOD — At 7 p.m. Sunday at Cooper Field, tears flowed down 8-year-old Madison Dancer’s face as she tightly clutched her mother, Brittany Dancer, waiting for her father, Pfc. Darrell Dancer, 4th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, to return from a nine-month deployment to Afghanistan.

“It was a nine-month deployment, but he’s been gone eight months, four days,” Brittany Dancer said. “I’m planning on running very fast (after the buses come), just so you know.”

Darrell Dancer’s brigade deployed in November on an advise-and-assist mission to help Afghans take control of their country’s security by the end of 2014. Lt. Col. Hope Rampy, commander of the 4th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, said more than 100 soldiers returned Sunday, and more than 115 soldiers landed Saturday.

It was interesting to work alongside Afghan soldiers, using military intelligence technology such as unmanned aircraft to clear routes, she said. Afghans work hard and loyally serve their country, and should be ready to control it by 2015, after taking the lead in all operations in recent months.

“The biggest challenge was getting it Afghan-right vs. U.S.-right,” Rampy said.

During Darrell Dancer’s longest time apart from his family, it was difficult for Brittany Dancer to run a one-parent, three-child household, all while hearing frightening news reports about the war, she said. She resigned her job as a Child Protective Services case worker while attending graduate school full time.

“Seeing as how we’ve never been apart, it was very depressing, very hard,” Brittany Dancer said. “I cried the whole way here. The four-hour drive from Houston was the longest drive of my life.”

After a three-count from Maj. Gen. Anthony R. Ierardi, commander, 1st Cavalry Division, Darrell Dancer, 35, embraced family members after missing his and Brittany’s 10-year wedding anniversary May 12, Madison’s eighth birthday, and Christmas, Brittany Dancer said.

He also couldn’t take his 15-year-old son, Zachary, on the regular fishing and dinner trips he cherishes.

To make up for lost time, the family planned homecoming and anniversary parties, as well as a vacation to Galveston, Brittany Dancer said.

“(Being away) was pretty taxing, pretty tough,” Darrell Dancer said. “I’m glad to be home.”

Contact Brian Bradley at or (254) 501-7567

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