FORT HOOD - It's been nearly five months since the 1st Cavalry Division Sustainment Brigade returned to American soil from a nine-month deployment in Afghanistan, but a return brings all new challenges and joys.
Among the joyful moments include spending time with family members and getting used to the surroundings and different noises again.
For Sergeant Daniel Kirby, it's a new baby girl. His wife, Lupe, found out she was pregnant before he deployed.
"I was scared. I was scared. When he told me he was going to volunteer, I was like okay. I can stay here. I can keep working and we’ll be good. And then I found out I was pregnant and I was like oh my God, don’t go,” she said.
Daniel and Lupe Kirby are high school sweethearts and have been together for eight years.
Lupe gave birth in January and Daniel watched on Facetime from the Middle East.
“There’s a lot of helplessness," Kirby admitted.
“He was there but he wasn’t. So it was just, I was just nervous. Like is he going to be able to feel like he’s here?” his wife said.
But in June, Sgt. Kirby was there. He embraced Lyla for the first time during the homecoming ceremony on Fort Hood. Lupe said she was searching for him, and when she saw her husband, she dropped the sign and ran for a big hug.
The family of three finally got together for the first time.
“I felt numb because I couldn’t believe he was home already where he was going to be home and finally see his daughter. It was a beautiful moment," Lupe said.
Lyla fell asleep in Kirby's arms that day, according to Lupe. He had some catching up to do, and was excited to become a Daddy -- feeding Lyla and changing her diaper.
“'Are you ready?' she says. Of course I am. 'Let’s go, let’s go!',” Sgt. Kirby said.
Now, the couple puts baby Lyla in a stroller for daily walks around the neighborhood. Sgt. Kirby is enjoying family activities like playing with Lyla and her favorite toy, a stuffed animal from the movie Trolls.
But Kirby isn't the only soldier facing a new homecoming challenge.
Sustainment Brigade colleague Sergeant First Class Crystal Basham returned from her third deployment overseas. She is helping her teenage son Ahmad recover from an ACL surgery. He was injured while playing for the Ellison Eagles—his 7th or 8th school in the last 5 years.
Back on American soil, Ahmahd is helping his mom recover too.
“I’m just trying to get her adapted to not having to worry about being bombed while she’s sleeping," Ahmahd said one October morning.
“I think our kids are sometimes more resilient than us. And that helps us be resilient, definitely. I think that’s the biggest thing—if I didn’t have his support and he wasn’t okay, then there’s no way, no way I would be comfortable with constantly leaving," Basham said.
The Sergeant First Class was sent overseas right after a suicide bombing last November which killed three Wagonmaster soldiers and injured others. She said everyone was on edge at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan.
When Basham returned to Fort Hood, one word came to mind: overwhelming.
“It took a lot of time and it’s sad to say but it took a lot of time for me to just adjust to being back to my son. We would go out to dinner and he could see just being in crowds was like overwhelming.”
Basham also had to get used to certain sounds and noises again.
"Like you’re not used to having kids crying, it’s so many noises, it’s so many noises," Basham said. "You’re used to certain noises, so if something doesn’t sound right, it alerts you.”
Months after the homecoming, it is still stressful, but Sergeant First Class Basham said she has a job to do. Reintegration training helps along with talking to doctors and chaplains, according to the soldier.
And keeping in touch with battle buddies reminds her she is not alone.
“We are, we are a great team together, we are a great team together, he’s am amazing teammate," she said about Ahmahd as he sat with her on the couch.
It may be tough, but the Kirby family is a team. "It was very difficult but we made it work," Lupe Kirby said.
“You just kind of have to dive head first and embrace it all. Can’t really fight it. I mean I wouldn’t fight it for the world because I love her to death," Sgt. Kirby said as he sat with his new baby and wife.
That family bond will keep both soldiers going strong whether it is here at home or overseas after they get the next marching orders to move out.
For any soldier struggling from a return to life in the states, or who just want to live a healthier lifestyle, the Resiliency Campus on Fort Hood offers more than 40 different programs supporting total body wellness. Check out the interviews with Major Jason Norwood, the Campus' Jillian Costanza and Captain Quintin Davis, the Campus' Commandant.
The Resiliency Campus is located on Fort Hood near the intersection of 31st and Old Ironsides Avenues.
To relive the June homecoming for the 1st Cavalry Division Sustainment Brigade, check out Jillian Angeline's story here.
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