Approximately 50 soldiers of the D.C. National Guard’s 372nd Military Police Battalion returned home, on Dec. 17. After a 10-month deployment to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba the citizen-soldiers will get to spend the holidays with family.

Inside the D.C. Armory, families, friends, and fellow National Guardsmen swarmed, “Welcome Home” signs at the ready, in anticipation for the big arrival.

The soldiers did not arrive together but arrived from Joint Andrews-Bulling Air Force Base in small groups, duffle bags and luggage in hand, and streamed into the Armory where they were surrounded by family and friends in the visiting room that throughout the afternoon erupted periodically with squeals of joy, tears, hugs and handshakes—all over the safe return home.

“It’s a true blessing to be back home, plus we sacrifice a lot but it’s for the greater good,” Sgt. Charnice Waters told the AFRO

Charnice is a D.C. native who has been in the army for over 17 years and this is not her first deployment.

“I know it sounds political but it’s the truth because what we do help our family it also helps our nation, so it’s worth it.”

Floyd Smith, Waters’ grandfather, Lennita Johnson, her sister who brought her toddler along and her 13-year-old son Nashon Waters all met her with hugs and kisses.

For Nashon, the coming holiday season is now complete.

“I just want to stay close to my mom,” he says, “I haven’t seen her in a while so I plan to buy her a present like I used to, and hopefully I can get me a job during the holidays.”

Waters said while she was in Guantanamo Bay, she communicated with her family through emails and phone calls.

Lt. Miranda Summers, the unit’s deputy public affairs officer, said after the troopers’ reunion with loved ones, they will return to their unit for reintegration training.

“We will make sure they get counseling, some resources, and some of these they get at their demobilization station.”

“Most of the people in this group have outside jobs,” she continues “We had nine out of this group that are D.C. Metro police, P.G. county police or Metro transit.”

Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Juan Mitchel who was among the group of 16 soldiers to arrive that afternoon was greeted by his wife Sherry Mitchel and nephew Caleb.

Sherry said she’s been waiting a long time for her husband to return home. She missed him deeply, she said.

The non-commissioned officer has been in the Army for 30 years and said he is looking forward to being home with his family. His wife, still surrounded in a big bear hug from her husband, said they don’t really have any holiday plans but “we are just going to stay home with the kids, maybe go see a couple of family members.”

Maria Adebola

Special to the AFRO