FAIRBANKS — They’re almost all home now.
Planeloads of returning soldiers from the more than 4,000-member 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division from Fort Wainwright have been returning to Fairbanks on an almost daily basis. Most of the remaining soldiers are scheduled to return from their year-long deployment to Afghanistan in the next few days.
A flight that arrived Thursday morning returned another 100 soldiers, including a large contingent from 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment.
Samantha Baker, wife of Sgt. Damon Baker, took it to the next level preparing for her husband’s arrival. She carried a sign that towered over the crowd with her husband’s name and a light-up arrow pointing to where she stood. The folks at Denali Industrial Supply helped her build it, she said.
The sign did its job.
“Somebody came up to me and said, ‘I think that’s you over there,’” Damon Baker said after he was reunited with his wife.
Baker has been to war before on two previous overseas deployments, but this homecoming is different because it’s his last. Now that he’s home from this deployment, he plans to leave the Army and settle more permanently in the Interior where he’s planning to work for a civilian construction company.
With the brigade members just about all back at Fort Wainwright, attention turns to a community welcome home event scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. May 12.
A military parade, including a majority of the Stryker Brigade’s members, will pass through downtown Fairbanks and head to Pioneer Park, where a picnic is planned. Organizers of the Salute To Our Military Parade — S.T.O.M.P. — hope to have thousands of people lining the route.
A reviewing stand and bleachers for dignitaries and the families of service members killed or wounded in the wars will be set up on Second Avenue.
Contact staff writer Sam Friedman 459-7545.