Nearly 2,200 members of the 45th Infantry Brigade arrived in Oklahoma Sunday morning to spend the holidays with the family and friends that helped get them here.
Twenty-three buses full of troops began to arrive about 9 a.m. at three locations around the state:
-- Oklahoma City’s Travel and Transportation Building at State Fair Park
-- Tulsa’s Mabee Center
-- McAlester’s Expo Center
“It was really amazing,” Lt. Col. John Altebaumer said of the Oklahoma City crowd that greeted about 1,100 soldiers. “The small children running to grab their mother and father, it was really special to be there and see that.”
The arrival came nearly a week after Maj. General Harry M. Wyatt announced that donations made by the American Legion of Oklahoma, private businesses and individual Oklahomans had made it possible for the troops to spend a 10-day leave at home with their families for the holidays.
“We can't say thank you enough to the American Legion and all the people who donated to get these soldiers home,” Altebaumer said. “We truly appreciate the generosity of the people of Oklahoma.”
Altebaumer said some troops opted for traveling by plane or by rental car, but all 2,600 of the brigade’s troops chose to leave Fort Bliss, Texas, where they have been training since late October.
On Jan. 2, the troops will go back to Fort Bliss. Later that month, they will deploy to Iraq. The troops are expected to return sometime in September, Altebaumer said.\