By Wendy Gragg

Killeen Daily Herald

From the red, white and blue Welcome Home banners adorning houses and apartments to We missed you sentiments scribbled on car windows the signs of the recently returned blanket the Killeen area.

First Cavalry soldiers are emptying into the community by the busloads daily, as they return from deployments in the Middle East. For some soldiers, returning to life in the states means spending time with the children, and for others, the comfort of home is a brand new big-screen TV.

Sgt. Lawrence George, who returned from Iraq just a few days ago, took full advantage of his childrens spring break to catch a little dad-time with them. Though Thursday carried a chilly wind, it was just sunny enough for George and sons Jarred, 12, and Joaquin, 11, to hit Stillhouse Hollow Reservoir with their fishing poles.

I spent a little time with my wife, but she had to go in to work, George said. The boys wanted to fish.

George said that with his deployment and his wifes busy schedule as a working mom, his sons had gone a year without going fishing. The first thing Joaquin wanted to do when his dad came home was throw the football around, but he had even bigger plans. With a powerful cast and a shiny lure, Joaquin was hoping to catch a bass the family could have for dinner today.

At Mels Burger Joint in Copperas Cove, Sgt. Timothy Kathol was getting back into the swing of things with his family Thursday. Kathol has been away from his wife, Rhianon, for about 2 years, with the exception of a month between stints in Korea and Iraq.

Kathol said hes been catching up on spoiling his sons Trenton, 3, and Brendon, 16 months, since he returned Friday. Time with Rhianon and going out to eat also made his things to do list.

We try to avoid the crowds if we can, but its hard to do, he said.

Rhianon is also getting re-acclimated to their Copperas Cove home, having spent both of Kathols deployments in Chicago. She said shes been introducing her husband to the childrens daily routine.

I just wanted to go to the park and stuff like that take him to see the stuff the kids like to do, she said.

The Kathol familys Central Texas life will be short-lived, though. Timothy Kathol said he has already received orders for Germany and he gets to take the family with him this time.

Spc. Timothy Gourley was flying solo Thursday, taking advantage of Killeens shopping options. Gourley, who just returned from Iraq Saturday, said he was buying a lot of new clothes, spending a lot of money and enjoying good food and beer.

It feels good to be back, he said. Its been a long year.

Gourley isnt the only returned soldier with money burning a hole in his pocket. Patrick Ramsdell, operations manager at Best Buy in Killeen, said plenty of soldiers who are just back have been in his store buying a little of everything. Laptops and big TVs have been popular purchases, and soldiers have also been stocking up on new release CDs, he said.

Weve seen an increase in all that, Ramsdell said.

Contact Wendy Gragg at

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