III Corps soldiers return home from Iraq for the last time
UPDATED: Friday, April 13, 2012 - 8:54am
FORT HOOD -- Third time's the charm. At least that rings true for 900 III Corps soldiers who have finally finished their third and final deployment to Iraq.
After a year filled with hearings and controversies, Thursday was a proud one at Fort Hood.
III Corps soldiers were welcomed home with a ceremony displaying their colors in front of hundreds of people, signifying the successful completion of their deployment to Iraq.
"We have deployed during the beginning of the war, the surge and now we have deployed for this very successful transition to Operation New Dawn. This will be the last time the Corps comes back from Iraq. So this marks a very important chapter in, not only three corps history, but fort hood history," said Lt. Col. Robert Minti.
Commanding General of III Corps, Lt. Gen. Robert Cone said Fort Hood soldiers did their job in Iraq, helping the Iraqi people have safe elections and setting safe conditions for their citizens.
He also pointed out that in the War Against Terror, Fort Hood soldiers have carried a heavy load.
Lt. Gen. Cone stressed today that Fort Hood soldiers have contributed the most resources out of any post in America to Iraq, and they've also lost the most soldiers in their 8 years of deployment there.
Thursday, soldiers honored their families, and the battles they fight at home when their spouse is overseas.
Col. Michael Shank has been in Iraq four times, the first time being Desert Storm.
He and his wife, Julie Shank, say they are used to the deployments, but when Shank got off the plane at 3:00 this morning, they were right there waiting to greet him.
"Even my son, my 17 year old son, said I have to be there, I have to see dad come home, but yeah, we're happy he's home, and he should be home for a while," said Julie Shank.
"When we came home last night, all the first time deployers were in front, and they got to see their families coming home for the firs time. We take excitement in that as well," said Col. Shank.
With 11 months left before U.S. troops leave Iraq, III Corps soldiers hope those taking over Operation New Dawn finish the job well.
But for now, soldiers and their families want to focus on the home front.