Soldiers Return Home to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson
4th Airborne Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division back from Afghanistan
JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON – At the Buckner Gym on Fort Richardson, the Army’s band kept sleepy eyes wide-awake early in the morning Thursday as the loved ones of soldiers awaited the arrival of the men and women from the 4th Airborne Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division.
“We are super excited, we've been waiting for forever,” said mother of two Yesenia Blasczskia. Her husband Gerry Blasczskia has been deployed, but it was the first time since they had children. She said she had butterflies just thinking about his return.
Last December he was just one of 3,500 JBER soldiers deployed to Afghanistan.
For many of the men, this wasn’t their first time.
“This is his third deployment, but I consider it my fifth, because I was in the Army also. And I deployed twice,” said teary-eyed Ericka Chavez. She said as soon as she saw her husband of seven years she was going to hug and kiss him -- that’s exactly what she did.
But no matter how many times a family is put through this, it never gets easier. Military widow and mother Barbie Coleman knows what it feels like to lose a soldier.
“I knew before the van pulled up, my son had called me earlier and said did someone die? I said I don't think so why? He said because I got a call from my unit telling me to come in and that just gave me a feeling in the pit of my stomach and it wasn't to much longer and they came to my door. As soon as I heard the knock I knew.”
An Improvised Explosive Device killed her husband, Master Sergent Mark Coleman, on May 2, 2010, in Afghanistan.
All she has left of him now is a small black bracelet. His team of ten made them in remembrance of the soldier who served for 21 years in the Army. Each team member wears one, along with Barbie Coleman and her son Brett.
In 2011, when she got the news of her son’s deployment, all of those feelings resurfaced.
“I could have stopped him because he is the son of a deceased only son, but he was adamant he wanted to go,” Barbie Coleman said.
Brett Coleman enlisted before his father’s death and when the news came, his mother said he had his mind made up.
“He wanted to do his job. He joined and he wanted to serve and do what he wanted to do.”
As the soldiers made their way into the gym, some carried roses for their wives, daughters, mothers and husbands. The room grew silent and every head bowed to say a prayer of thanks for a safe return home.
When the soldiers were dismissed their loved ones held them in emotional embraces. Children yelled as they ran across the floor and flung themselves into their parent’s arms. Wyatt Blasczskia, 4, wrapped his arms around his father Gerry’s neck and the two made plans to set up a train set to play.
They said it’s these moments they are thankful for because time is all that matters.