FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. – It’s a month early, but nearly 170 families are getting gifts they have been waiting on for nine months right before the holidays.
“We talk to them often; just to have them home…I can’t describe it,” one father told News 2.
Earlier this year, the Army called on the 101st Airborne Division from Fort Campbell to head to Iraq.
“When they want it done, they are going to call the 101,”explained 101st Airborne Commander Maj. Gen. Gary Volesky.
In early 2016, the Army called on the division to go into hostile territory with a tough mission of taking back Mosul.
“People said if you could just get the Iraqis up to and around Mosul, before you left, that would be a success.”
Two hundred and 70 days later, the soldiers are back in the states and their mission is complete.
“This is my third one [deployment]; I’m ok when it is coming back. I know how to get right back into the swing of things,” said Sergeant Ellisha Lash.
The unit used airstrikes and ground attacks to help Iraqi forces move into the city. Maj. Gen. Volesky says the soldiers exceeded their mission.
“The Iraqis are the ones fighting this fight. We are advising them, but really at the division level so at the tip of the spear, those are the Iraqis doing it,” he explained.
From the time Sergeant Lash and her husband, Sergeant William Lash, took their first steps back on U.S. soil, their families have not stopped hugging their necks.
“This is something that we have been waiting for since we left.”
A long wait is over for the husband and wife and their family.
Now that the soldiers are home, they all have their different sets of plans, but News 2 talked with one who says his priority will be holding his baby boy.
“I still can’t believe that he is really mine,” Lieutenant Colonel Nick Guran said.
Guran came back briefly for his son’s birth two months ago, but went back 10 days later. He says that makes coming home this time even more special.
“It’s almost unreal, a surreal feeling and to see all these folks out here, I really appreciate it,” he said.
His wife, Michelle, said it is an emotional but happy day.
“It’s amazing. We really missed him. It’s been a long nine months, we are glad he is home,” she said.
While it has been hard, she says she and their son make it knowing they always have something in common with their father.
“Always under the same stars and now we are finally under the same roof cause no matter where he is or where we are, we are always looking at the same stars,” Michelle told News 2.
The challenges in Iraq do not stop since these soldiers are home, but Volesky is confident that the Iraqi forces will keep moving forward despite the challenges.
“There’s tunnels, there’s trenches, vehicle born IEDs so it’s a pretty good fight,” Volesky went on to say, “Dash or ISIL has been in Mosul for two years and so a lot of obstacles, a lot of tunnels so it’ll be a hard fight but the Iraqis have momentum.”
With the hard work these 170 soldiers left back in that hostile territory, the U.S. is one step closer to defeating ISIS.