'Happy”: More than 200 soldiers return to Fort Bragg after deploying in February

3 July 2022

FORT BRAGG, N.C. (WTVD) — For 146 days, Linnette Reyes and her four children have been waiting for this moment.

“Our baby was five weeks old. And now he’s six months,” said Linnette, holding Izandel in her arms, with her three other kids – Giancarlos, Carelys, Soelani – standing close by.

This was the third deployment for her husband, and their father, First Lt. Carlos Reyes Vazquez, though his first in nearly a decade.

“Happy,” Giancarlos said of his dad’s return.

“I’m just in shock,” Giancarlos’ sister Carelys said.

“There was a lot of postponing. So, we really had no idea of how long this was going to be. So finally, when we found out yesterday for sure this was happening today, my husband’s birthday’s today. And he’s turning 33. So, this is really big for all of us. Just to be able to celebrate with him, his birthday, his homecoming, 4th of July. We’re just so blessed to be together today,” Linnette added.

She described the responsibilities families of deployed soldiers face.

“It’s every day. It’s 24/7 of yes there’s a constant concern for them and making sure that they’re okay but in our reality the wheels have to keep turning at home. And like I said, if you don’t keep that momentum going and for one second you really stop to think about it, it becomes a mess…So, I think for the most part, everything keeps going. The clock keeps ticking. It’s not easy, but you got to keep moving,” said Linnette.

Approximately 230 troops returned Sunday afternoon, part of the 4,700 soldiers who left in February for Poland Germany, part of the U.S.’s efforts to bolster NATO efforts in trying to deter Russian aggression along Ukraine’s border. Within weeks of their departure, Russia launched a full-scale invasion, in which tens of thousands of people have been killed, and millions displaced.

While soldiers were unable to discuss specifics of their work overseas due to security concerns, they were free to discuss their reactions to deploying and returning.

“(My father) had been through it quite a few times. So, I wasn’t too worried about. It’s nothing in the family that hasn’t been done before,” said Logan Zelaya of his first deployment.

Both Zalaya’s parents, Jorge who was deployed three times to Iraq, and Casey, are US Army veterans, which is where they first met.

“The main thing is to stay safe. Being there a few times, it’s his time now. But we got him back safe, that’s what matters,” said Jorge.

Casey said it was a different experience with her son deployed.

“After three times, you kind of become a seasoned pro at it. He stayed from 12 months to 15 months. And I thought, okay I could handle this. But then when my son deployed, it was a totally different ballgame,” Casey explained.

Sunday’s welcome-back ceremony was a full-circle moment for the Zelaya’s.

“That meant a lot because we went all to his when he (was deployed) so it was a little different. But it was cool, it was a good experience,” said Logan.

“Just the biggest sense of pride. I couldn’t ask for a better son,” Jorge added.

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