Hundreds of ‘Spartans’ return home

Paratroopers reunited with family, friends


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Sgt. 1st Class Ted Tremblay holds Tiffany Sturvill during a welcome home ceremony for about 300 “Spartans” on Thursday, Sept. 27 on JBER.

MIKE NESPER

Just two months after arriving in Alaska from Connecticut, Amanda Shaw’s husband, Spc. Justin Shaw, left for Afghanistan with about 3,500 paratroopers from the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division.

Living alone was a unique experience for Amanda, who grew up with six siblings.

“Being by myself was the hardest,” she said. “It was all new, but I made it through.”

The loneliness is over.

Amanda was reunited with her husband just after 6 a.m. on Thursday, Sept. 27 when about 300 soldiers from the “Spartan” brigade returned to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

Just having Justin around the house again is what Amanda’s looking forward to the most.

“I’m looking forward to not eating dinner alone, not going to bed alone, not having a conversation alone,” Amanda said.

Two more “main body” plane loads carrying about 300 Spartans each have returned to JBER since Thursday, bringing the total number of soldiers back in Alaska to 1,400. The remaining 2,100 troops still in Afghanistan will return with additional main body flights over the next two weeks.

The anticipation of seeing her spouse after a 10-month deployment prevented Amanda from getting any sleep Wednesday.

“I’ve been up all day,” she said. “I’ve been so anxious.”

Jessica Yurkew and her two children know the feeling.

“We couldn’t sleep,” she said.

The first tour for her husband, Sgt. Tyler Yurkew, wasn’t as bad as Jessica anticipated.

“The kids kept me very busy,” she said.

Jessica said she’s can’t wait for all four Yurkews to be under the same roof.

“Just spending time together,” she said. “Being a family again.”

For Cpt. Sally Somoza, her reunion with husband Cpt. Antonio Somoza will be cut short. Very short.

Sally is deploying to Afghanistan and the end of October, giving her just a month with her husband.

“We’re going to cram in as much time together as possible,” she said.

Despite the less-than-ideal situation, Sally said those are the breaks that come with being in the military.

“It’s part of the life,” she said.

This was Antonio’s second tour, but watching him leave never gets any easier, his wife said.

“That doesn’t change,” she said.

Antonio and Sally’s strong bond enables them to handle deployments, said Antonio’s mom, Rosa.

“It must be love,” she said.

Rosa and Sally’s parents, Silvia and Samuel Ramirez, were among the friends and family at Buckner Physical Fitness Center to surprise Antonio.

Rosa said the first thing she’s doing is cooking roast pork, rice and potato salad for her son.

Though technology has made staying connected with her son easier, nothing compares seeing him in the flesh, Rosa said.

“I see him all the time through Skype, but it’s not the same,” she said.

Rosa said Antonio chose to serve his country just as his father, who spent 22 years in the Army.

“He’s a great soldier,” she said. “Like his father.”

 

Contact Mike Nesper at 694-2727 or mike.nesper@alaskastar.com.

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