Even as lightning flashed across the sky above Suffolk’s National Guard Armory on Tuesday, the glad reunions continued. Men and women finally home from a long deployment to Quatar ran to embrace their mothers and fathers. Fathers kissed children who were mere infants when they’d left in September of last year. Husbands reunited with wives whose vows had barely been spoken when they’d been called into active duty.
The clouds gathered, but they could not dispel the light created from the joy that sprang forth when two busloads of National Guardsmen emptied their tired warriors into the parking lot of the armory. It seemed that even the rain would hold long enough for the homecoming to be complete.
Of course, it didn’t hurt that a sergeant cut his “safety briefing” mercifully short with a couple of simple charges to his team and their families: “Whatever you’re going to do tonight … do it in moderation,” he said. “And don’t drink and drive.”
Then the members of the Suffolk-based Troop B, 2nd Squadron, 183rd Cavalry, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team of the Virginia National Guard were dismissed, and there was a mad rush to find family members and friends, to grab duffel bags and backpacks and to hit the road for home, wherever that might have been in Virginia.
The team comprises members from all parts of the state, and many were planning long trips back home, the final leg of a journey that had begun in the Middle East, where B Troop had been providing security since October, after having left Suffolk for training in September, just three months after having received their orders.
By the grace of God, none of those who went on this deployment were injured or killed in the course of their duties. There were no holes in their final formation, no ceremonies to mark fallen brothers or sisters, no tears of sorrow for comrades lost in action.
The only tears — and there were plenty of them, actually — were those of joy at having been reunited with loved ones, at setting their feet again on the good soil of the Old Dominion and at the prospect of rest and relaxation in the days and weeks to come.
And then they all piled into cars and trucks and headed out along Godwin Boulevard to whatever destination each of them calls home, eager for the happy task of acclimating themselves once again to the lives of civilians, of mothers and fathers, of boyfriends and girlfriends, of husbands and wives making families.