Updated: December 21, 2011 at 12:00 am
Shrieks of joy filled the air as ecstatic family members choked back tears and took photos and video in a raucous ceremony to welcome home Fort Carson soldiers Wednesday.
Two hundred soldiers from the post’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team came home from Afghanistan — the second group of that size in five days — as part of President Barack Obama’s plan to bring 10,000 soldiers home by year’s end.
“My birthday is on Christmas, so this is an early present, the best one I could get,” said Cpl. Anthony Cruciotti.
Cruciotti’s mother, sister and girlfriend drove his car 31 hours from Boston to be at the homecoming.
“I had trouble sleeping every night he was gone,” said Cruciotti’s mother, Patty. “I’ll sleep better now that he’s back. This was his second deployment and it was worse than the first.”
Capt. Tony Hoefler said all 125 soldiers in his 2nd Brigade company returned safely.
“Any time you come back with the entire company you feel blessed and the sheer luck of it really hits you,” Hoefler said. “Being here today just brings a flood of emotions.”
Staff Sgt. Richard Cortez was surrounded by his wife, four children and his parents and brother. Cortez’s parents and brother were stuck on Interstate 25 for seven hours in their car Tuesday after snow closed the freeway outside of Santa Fe, N.M.
“Our 12-hour trip turned into about 20 ,but we were telling our kids in Arizona, it doesn’t matter as long as we get to see our son come home,” said Socorro Cortez, Richard’s mother.
This was Cortez’s third tour overseas. The first two were in Iraq. Cortez beamed while holding his youngest child, Alex, who is 13 months old.
“He doesn’t remember me,” Cortez said. “It’ll be great getting to know him.”
Cortez’s wife, Tina, said she was “overwhelmed” by the day’s emotions and is “so thankful for the short deployment and that they got to come home early.” But she’s also happy for the simple pleasures her husband’s return will bring.
“I can’t wait to go to the grocery store by myself, without all the kids,” she said. “That will be a treat.”
MORE SOLDIERS DUE THURSDAY
The third homecoming ceremony in six days at Fort Carson is scheduled Thursday at 7:30 p.m. Approximately 100 soldiers from the 62nd Engineer Company will return after four months in Iraq. They are the last Fort Carson soldiers to depart Iraq.