HARKER HEIGHTS — An appreciative crowd of more than 1,000 soldiers and their families from Fort Hood’s 3rd Cavalry Regiment attended a welcome home celebration on Saturday at Purser Family Park, hosted by the city.
”I love this community and its people and for the sponsors who took care of our soldiers today,” said Col. Jonathan Byrom, the regiment’s commander.
The 3rd Cavalry Regiment wrapped up a nine-month deployment to Iraq supporting Operation Inherent Resolve, the effort to defeat of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, at the end of January. During the deployment, the “Brave Rifles” worked with the Kurdish and Iraqi Security Forces to conduct combined operations against ISIS, where they hunted down ISIS in mountain hideaways and caves, and fired thousands of artillery rounds at ISIS targets, Army officials said.
Saturday’s “welcome home” event began with the presentation of the colors by the Harker Heights High School JROTC Color Guard, and cadet Tatiana Toribio led the national anthem.
Following speeches by Harker Heights Mayor Spencer Smith, state Rep. Brad Buckley and commander Byrom, the crowd took part in picking up gifts and mementos provided by the YMCA, listened and danced along to music provided by D.J. Abner Nito, played games sponsored by the Harker Heights Library and feasted on hot dogs, chips and drinks. During the ceremony, the YMCA opened up its fitness center exclusively for use by the soldiers.
Amy Elgin, the spouse of Sgt. Tanner Elgin said, “This event is really awesome and it’s one of the advantages of being stationed at a large military base. The sponsors and volunteers know how to surround these units and provide support.”
Jeff Achee, director of Harker Heights Parks and Recreation, said, “The welcome home celebration was the epitome of a community wide effort. It was a way to say thank you to our adopted unit, the 3rd Cavalry Regiment. We’re glad that all these folks arrived safely and are back with their families.”