By Emily Baker
Killeen Daily Herald
FORT HOOD – After welcoming home more than 10,000 soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division, homecoming ceremony organizers still aren't tired of their duties.
After all, "it's not about us," said Staff Sgt. Lawrence Cobbins, a medic who attends ceremonies in case someone needs help.
"Since we don't deploy, we're back here doing our part," Cobbins said, referring to the fact the ceremonies' workers are either soldiers from the 4th Infantry's rear or civilian volunteers.
Another 800 soldiers returned to Fort Hood from a yearlong deployment to Iraq on Monday. Just like the dozens of ceremonies before, the soldiers were greeted with free food, a disc jockey and loud music, a line of children saluting and waving flags and ran into the gym through smoke and flashing lights.
John Moltz Jr. greeted returning soldiers for the 41st time Monday. Moltz volunteers with the Texas Military Family Foundation and hands out free coffee, hot chocolate and candy and passes out American flags for families to wave as their soldiers return.
Moltz, a veteran of the Korean and Vietnam wars who retired after 38 years in the military, is one of the foundation's four volunteers.
Each ceremony deserves the best the organizers and volunteers can muster, said Tony Rossi, the disc jockey at homecoming ceremonies.
"Each family and each soldier is unique," Rossi said.
The organizers who work at each ceremony said the families make the experience interesting. They enjoy talking with families and finding out where they are from, said Sgt. 1st Class Kenneth Bush, the noncommissioned officer in charge of Starker Gym, where most of the homecoming ceremonies are held.
Some families don't know when their soldier will be home and just show up to Starker Gym, said Sgt. 1st Class Dewayne Butcher, who leads soldiers from the buses that carry them from the airfield into the gym.
"They'll say, My son is in the 4th Infantry Division, and he's coming home,'" Butcher said. "They'll come (to ceremonies) every day until their son comes home."
Many of the soldiers who work at the ceremonies rely on their sense of humor to keep ceremonies interesting. Bush, a 1st Cavalry Division soldier, and Cobbins joked about how the 4th Infantry's patch is much smaller than the 1st Cavalry's, the Army's largest patch. They bestowed the title of "noncommissioned officer in charge of the ceremonial run" upon Butcher.
But, the fact the ceremonies create lifelong memories for soldiers and families is not far from the soldiers' minds.
Col. Gary Salmon, the division's rear chaplain, often offers a prayer of thanksgiving after the soldiers arrive at the gym.
"It has to be real short," Salmon said. "They need to get out and go home and don't want anything long."
The soldiers said they enjoy being part of the ceremonies, even if it is the same thing at all hours of the day nearly every day for more than a month.
"It's a real happy time," Salmon said. "Most of the time, it's a pretty joyous occassion."
The entire 4th Infantry is expected to be home by Christmas.
Contact Emily Baker at firstname.lastname@example.org