By Amanda Kim Stairrett

Killeen Daily Herald

It wasn't hard for Elaine to spot her son among rows of uniformed soldiers. Jeremiah was the one with the million-dollar smile, of course.

"You can hear it when he talks," she said.

Spc. Jeremiah Hare returned to Fort Hood at 4 a.m. Tuesday

with about 180 soldiers from the 89th Military Police Brigade's 411th Military Police Company, 720th Military Police Battalion. The company's soldiers, led by Capt. Norma James, trained Iraqi policemen for 15 months in Taji, Iraq, said Brig. Gen. Mark McDonald, Fort Hood's deputy commander.

Elaine and her husband, Skip, a Vietnam War-era veteran, made the three-day trip from New York state to see their son come home. They have two jobs each and used vacation time for their Texas visit. It didn't matter if Jeremiah returned at 4 a.m. or 4 p.m., the Hares were going to be there.

"We would've never slept," Elaine said.

They weren't at Fort Hood the first time Jeremiah returned from a deployment and his mother vowed it wouldn't happen a second time.

"I can't do that again," she said.

Jeremiah is the family's third grandson to deploy to Iraq. His uncle went there during Desert Storm.

"We're used to it but it's never easy," Elaine said.

Jeremiah was friends with the company's sole casualty, Sgt. Jeffrey Alexander Reed, who was killed March 2 when his vehicle was struck by a grenade. Elaine talked to her son on the phone and could tell the loss affected him. She spent much of the deployment on pins and needles, she said. It was faith and technology that helped her get through it.

The Hares' daughters took the family computer to school, but an anonymous donor gave them another so Elaine and Skip could keep in touch with Jeremiah. Elaine became an instant-messaging, e-mailing, Web-camming expert.

She couldn't hug her son like she wanted, but at least she could keep an eye on that million-dollar smile.

Contact Amanda Kim Stairrett at or (254) 501-7547.

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