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296th comes back after nearly a year of service

Major Howard Taylor made his soldiers a promise as they loadedbusses in October to support Operation Enduring Freedom, and it wasa promise he kept.

“Family and friends of the 296th, I made you a promise October18 that I would bring them back. I kept my promise,” he told thecrowd gathered at the 296th Transportation Company Armory Saturdayto welcome the unit home. “No deaths. And only one injury. You canbe proud of your 296th!”

The unit hauled more than 9 million gallons of fuel over morethan one million miles while supporting combat operations in Iraqas part of Operation Enduring Freedom.

The only injury occurred during a mortar attack on the unit’sfirst day in Iraq March 20. Specialist Brandy Taylor was struck inthe knee by a mortar fragment. She received the Purple Heart forbeing wounded in the line of duty.

The unit left Brookhaven in October for mobilization operationsat Fort Stewart, Ga. They arrived in Iraq in March and left IraqJuly 25 for demobilization operations back at Fort Stewart.

The war was behind them, however, as they disembarked from thebuses Saturday into the waiting arms of their family andfriends.

Specialist Robert Medlin’s eyes watered as he embraced hiscrying fiancee, Elvira Kimble, for the first time in nearly ayear.

“It feels so good to be home,” he said. “I’ve been waiting anddreaming of this.”

Michelle Taylor, Maj. Taylor’s wife, was happy to see herhusband home, but recognized he had duties to perform before theycould capture a few private moments to themselves.

“We’re proud of him, but we’re glad he’s home,” she said. “Therewas a lot of praying and a lot of restless nights while he wasgone. I can wait a few more minutes.”

The unit did not hold any welcome home ceremonies for thesoldiers Saturday, preferring to release them to their families. Ahomecoming celebration will be held within the next few weeks,however, said MSgt. Mac McCurdy, unit administrator.

The soldiers of the 296th will remain on active duty for atleast two more weeks to make the transition back to an Army Reserveunit and to perform maintenance on the unit’s equipment.