About 1,000 friends and family were on hand at Fort Carson Thursday morning to welcome home 330 Colorado soldiers. And by the end of the week, hundreds more will follow.
First to arrive were 126 members of the Colorado National Guard, who had spent about a year in Iraq. They were followed by 205 members of the Third Armored Cavalry Regiment.
Many of those soldiers returned home to children they had never seen. They are also returning to family members who say they are very proud of them and prayed for them while they were gone. Those family members say it makes them happy to know their loved ones served their country and liberated the people of Iraq.
The soldiers' return is part of a massive movement of troops that is bringing 12-thousand Fort Carson soldiers back to the mountain post from overseas deployment.
The soldiers we talked to say, they had a very different focus than what people see and hear about in the news. They say progress is being made everyday in Iraq. But they say people at home don't get the chance to see it first-hand like they do.
He's a full-grown man, back home from war, but the tears on Gloria Martinez's face say, he's still her little boy. Captain Isaac Martinez will now get to sleep in his own bed for the first time in more than a year. "No more cots! I actually get a nice sleep in bed."
The same is true for all of the soldiers who are returning to Colorado this week. For Anthony Budshaw, whose brother arrived today, it's the chance to resume a little sibling rivalry. "What's next for you guys? "I don't know. Probably a game of racketball or something. Beat up on him a little bit."
But Thursday’s homecoming comes with some sadness. Two members of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment were killed in a helicopter crash near Baghdad on Wednesday. Despite constant news of death and violence, these soldiers say they made progress. “It's just too bad that point or highlight of it---nobody ever shows the good side of it," says SGT Anthony Munoz.
These soldiers will now go through a series of medical and psychological evaluations in the next 5 days. After that, they're back to life as usual.