Ft. Benning - An Albany soldier was one of the first soldiers to step foot in Baghdad for Operation Iraqi Freedom. His task force with the 3rd Brigade were the ones on the front line. The soldiers admit it was dangerous, but it was also a learning experience.
The crowd goes wild. Sgt. First Class Samuel Cook says, "Like a prep rally. I graduated from Westover High School, it was like a prep rally."
These Ft. Benning soldiers tackled terrorism on the front line in Iraq. "Over there it was really hard, you know, " says Cook. Cook is from Albany. He's with the 3rd Brigade. The soldiers marched in just past midnight Tuesday morning. The ceremony lasted 10 minutes, but it felt like an eternity.
Cook explains, "The trip coming from Kuwait to here was long, but standing here in this formation today. The speech was going too long."
Finally, the word 'dismissed' came over the intercom. Cook adds, "Dismiss meant step out of the way- I'm looking for my family!" More than 200 soldiers searched for familiar faces.
Cook's wife, Sharron says, "I don't ever want to lose him again. Never."
Cook has spent 24 years in the military. He says, "My retirement papers are in. That's it, I should be out by next July 1st. Find me a civilian job and spend more time with my family."
His 9 and 13 year-old kids are happy he'll be home more often. Samantha Cook says, "It will be really good to have another person to love."
While these soldiers are back home other Fort Benning soldiers still overseas will be thinking of the sign hanging on the gym wall, "Benning or Bust".
There are seven more 3rd Brigade groups coming back to Fort Benning from now until Monday. Each group averages 200 soldiers.