FORT DRUM Tuesday was a special day for Spc. Shawn A. Shackle, who returned to post from a nine-month deployment in Afghanistan. He held his 3-month-old son, Benjamin, for the first time.
I thought this day would never come, he said.
The infantryman from the 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team was thousands of miles away when his wife, Ashley L., delivered their child. Since then, Spc. Shackle has watched his son through video calls and Facebook.
Every day, hes all Ive thought about, he said. He had few words as a group of family members and friends surrounded him to welcome him home, and a fellow soldier asked him about the baby he was carrying.
Its my son, he said. Its crazy.
Spc. Shackle was one of about 300 soldiers, mostly from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, who returned to a group of hundreds of family members and fellow soldiers that filled Magrath Sports Complex.
Among the family members waiting to surprise Spc. Steven Ling was his mother, Jo T. Tinner, and stepfather, Lt. Col. Timothy G. Tinner, whose Marine uniform made him stand out from the Army personnel.
Mrs. Tinner said that when her son left on the deployment, she told him she would be the first person he would see when he got home. However, she later told him that she and her husband would not be able to come to post from their home near Camp Pendleton, Calif.
We lied, of course, she said.
Following a brief ceremony, Mrs. Tinners search amongst the rush of people was ended with a big hug from her son. Spc. Ling said he expected to see his parents at Christmas.
They showed up, he said. Im surprised.
The return of soldiers from the 1st and 2nd Brigades comes as the 3rd Brigade Combat Team starts to send about 2,000 soldiers to Afghanistan for a nine-month deployment of their own. The brigades 10th Combat Aviation Brigade and Fort Polk-based 4th Brigade are already in the country.
Thats just life of the 10th Mountain Division, brigades coming and going to Afghanistan, Maj. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, post and division commander, said during a ceremony for the 3rd Brigade on Monday. Thats what weve been doing for the last year, and thats what were going to keep doing for this next year.
See video from the ceremony at http://wdt.me/FNTQS2.