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20180509-135th-ESC-returns-from-deployment 20180509 135th ESC returns from deployment

Birmingham Guard unit returns from deployment

Story by Spc. Cody Muzio

 

Family, friends, and Soldiers of the 135th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, ran, jumped, hugged, and celebrated in the arms of their reunited loved ones at a ceremony honoring the unit's return from a nine-month deployment to the Middle East.

The ceremony, held in the hangars of the Sumpter Smith Air National Guard Base in Birmingham May 9, 2018, marked the end of a difficult separation for many families. Soldiers held infant children, nieces, nephews, and grandchildren who had not been born before they left. "The KuWAIT is finally over!" read one sign waved by an eager family member, referencing one of the many nations the 135th served in and alongside during their tour.

"We will be married 10 years in May," said Melinda Jones of her returning husband, Staff Sgt. Joey Jones. "But this has been the first time he's deployed or been gone for such a really long time since we've been married."

She, along with her two daughters, Payton (8) and McKenzie (4), greeted her husband with tears and laughter.

"It's been a struggle working and still trying to keep the house and kids and everything organized and functioning and held together by myself while working 12-hour night shifts," she said. But now that's over, she said the family intends to enjoy "a nice, quiet little family vacation in Georgia." 

Nearby, the Gaines family anxiously awaited the return of their husband, father, father-in-law, and grandfather, Staff Sgt. Darrell Gaines. "I feel awesome," wife Shirley Gaines said, "so awesome, so excited, so very, very excited."

She said it's been most difficult to just notice the lack of his presence in their day-to-day.

"It's hard just knowing he's not here," she said. "Not being able to see, hear, and touch him around the house isn't good." She said the family (who each brought decorated posters and wore matching shirts welcoming Staff Sgt. Gaines home) was going to go party to celebrate his homecoming, though grandson Aiden Gaines had his heart set on one activity he had missed.

 "I just want to play football with him," he said.

Speakers at the ceremony placed particular emphasis on the families present, thanking them for their support, commitment, and sacrifice while their soldiers were away.

"We trained hard, we worked hard, and we accomplished a very complicated mission in Kuwait and the Middle East, and for that, I thank you, Soldiers" said Brig. Gen. Sylvester Cannon, 135th commanding general. "But this is not only for you, but also to the families and friends who supported us all. You're the ones we left behind, you're the ones who shouldered the burden, and you're the ones who did the work that had to be done.

"You've not only had to serve, you've had to sacrifice. Thank you for empowering us to do our mission."

Alabama National Guard adjutant general, Maj. Gen. Sheryl Gordon, echoed the same sentiments.

"Often times, I think the families make a greater sacrifice than the Soldiers," she said, "because the Soldiers only have one job while they're deployed, while the families have to take on the additional duties of that member who's missing and they have to pick up the slack."

In his final word to Soldiers, Cannon gave a word of advice that put a smile on Aiden Gaines' face.

"Take some time off. Enjoy yourselves, enjoy your families, take your kids to school and catch a ball game. Enjoy your friends and celebrate the people who love you. Thank you for all you do."

 

Photos above: Staff Sgt. Joey Jones and Melinda Jones embrace during the 135th Expeditionary Sustainment Command's redeployment ceremony at Sumpter Smith Air National Guard Base in Birmingham, Alabama, May 9, 2018. (Photo by Spc. Cody Muzio.)

Shirley Gaines, Staff Sgt. Darrell Gains and Aiden Gaines embrace during the 135th Expeditionary Sustainment Command's redeployment ceremony at Sumpter Smith Air National Guard Base in Birmingham, Alabama, May 9, 2018. (Photo by Army Staff Sgt. William Frye.)

For more photos, please visit the Alabama National Guard Flickr page .

 

 

 

Master Sgt. Edna Barclay Scott embraces a loved on during the 135th Expeditionary Sustainment Command's redeployment ceremony at Sumpter Smith Air National Guard Base in Birmingham, Alabama, May 9, 2018. (Photo by Army Staff Sgt. William Frye.)

 

 

 

 

 

Col. Jason Griffin embraces family members at the 135th Expeditionary Sustainment Command's redeployment ceremony at Sumpter Smith Air National Guard Base in Birmingham, Alabama, May 9, 2018. (Photo by Spc. Cody Muzio.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Patrick Tellis, Theresa Harris, Jenifer Tellis, Paris McGhee celebrate Capt. Jeremy McGhee's return from deployment at the 135th Expeditionary Sustainment Command's redeployment ceremony at Sumpter Smith Air National Guard Base in Birmingham, Alabama, May 9, 2018. (Photo by Army Staff Sgt. William Frye.)

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