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The Rolla Daily News - Rolla, MO
  • 'Hoplites' make Mother’s Day special at Fort Leonard Wood

  • “This has got to be the best Mother’s Day ever,” exclaimed Capt. Ericka Collins, rear detachment commander with 5th Engineer Battalion, 4th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, to kick off Sunday’s redeployment ceremony at Fort Leonard Wood’s Baker Theater for a group of soldiers with the 55th ‘Hoplite’ Mobility Augmentation Company.
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  • “This has got to be the best Mother’s Day ever,” exclaimed Capt. Ericka Collins, rear detachment commander with 5th Engineer Battalion, 4th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, to kick off Sunday’s redeployment ceremony at Fort Leonard Wood’s Baker Theater for a group of soldiers with the 55th ‘Hoplite’ Mobility Augmentation Company.
    Returning home after nearly a year’s stint in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, the returning soldiers of 55th MAC ‘Hoplites’, 5th Eng. Bn., 4th MEB, 1st Inf. Div., entered the theater to families and friends clapping, cheering and holding a variety of welcome home signs.
    “These Hoplites have spent the last nine months in Afghanistan clearing routes and performing combined arms operations with our coalition partners in order to support the retrograde effort,” said Lt. Col. Sebastien Joly, commander, 5th Eng. Bn., while encouraging the audience to give the soldiers a round of applause.
    Mother’s Day was made even sweeter for several families with newborns waiting to meet their dads for the first time.
    But it wasn’t just dads whose return made this Mother’s Day a little more special.
    Three-month-old Charly Thedford was on hand as her grandfather, Sgt. John Buckley, native of Russell, Kentucky, and a combat engineer with the 55th MAC, would get to lay eyes on her for the first time in person.
    Buckley’s wife, Angie, and Buckley’s daughter and son-in-law, Jennifer and Matthew Thedford, natives of Rolla, waited with a few other family members to surprise Buckley.
    “John did get a few snapshots of Charly on Skype but due to bandwidth it was only for two minutes if that,” said Angie. “He’s excited and said his main concern is how Charly will react when she sees him for the first time.”
    After being released from the stage Buckley searched for a few moments for his wife and daughter but didn’t expect to see a tiny little girl which Jennifer promptly placed in his arms.
    Just one word was all it took for Buckley to sum up how the moment of meeting his granddaughter made him feel.
    “Happy,” said Buckley.

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