Soldiers Return From Iraq

Sunday, October 29th 2006, 9:18 am
By: News On 6

FORT SILL, Okla. (AP) _ About 260 soldiers from a Fort Sill-based field artillery unit returned from Iraq to the cheers of friends and family.

The Bravo Battery, 5th Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery Unit arrived Saturday night to a packed Rinehart Fitness Center on the southwest Oklahoma Army post.

Lt. Col. Tracy Banister became emotional as he addressed his soldiers during the ceremony.

``I know it sounds corny,'' Banister said. ``But you feel like you're the father of 261 guys ... and it's a privilege of going into combat with these guys, knowing they were well trained and as ready as they could be for war, and then to see them come home after dealing with very dangerous situations.''

The battalion survived at least 157 enemy attacks, drove more than 5 million miles of convoy missions and returned with five Purple Heart recipients. Two of those soldiers _ Staff Sgt. Eric Tobin and Spec. Ronald Williams _ suffered serious burns when a bomb hit the truck they were driving. The soldiers were flown home, only to return to the war at their own request.

Debbie Stone wept over her son's return, as well as his decision to re-enlist for another six years.

``It was terrible,'' said Stone, who traveled from her home in New York. ``It's scary watching the news and seeing all the bad things that are happening over there. So many young men are being injured and killed, and for what?''

Spec. Mike Stone, Debbie's son, is willing to take his chances.

``I did it for her,'' said Mike Stone, kissing his infant baby girl, Heavyn Faith, on her nearly bald head. ``I did it for her.''

Heavyn was born nine months ago while her father was en route from Iraq on an emergency leave. He arrived the day after her birth.

``It's been lonely and hard,'' said Stephanie Stone, Mike Stone's wife. ``But we were able to send pictures over the Internet, and we got the Web cam as much as we could. I'm just so glad he's home.''