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When Charlie Company might return home from Afghanistan
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1st Battalion, 121st Infantry Regiment Soldiers with the 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team secure a landing zone during a Train, Advise and Assist mission in Southeastern Afghanistan. (Courtesy Master Sgt. Casey Nelsen/U.S. Army)

Molly Nigro was happy to see members of the Georgia National Guard's 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team return home June 17.

But otherwise, it was “kind of this punch in the gut,” as others, including her husband, Sgt.1st Class Nick Nigro, are still deployed in Afghanistan.

“And July Fourth is really hard,” Nigro said during an interview Monday, July 1, at Charlie Company’s armory at 153 Alta Vista Road, Gainesville. “It’s one of my husband’s favorite holidays, and it’s such a family-oriented holiday.”

Families of Charlie Company watched as Gov. Brian Kemp greeted soldiers home at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, saying “we are forever grateful for the service and sacrifice of these heroes.”

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Natalie Wylupek, 3, left, makes a sign for her uncle Philip Gormley, a first lieutenant in Charlie Company, while sitting with her grandmother Jackie Lynn of Dawsonville at the Georgia Army National Guard in Gainesville on Saturday, June 29, 2019. The unit has been deployed in Afghanistan since November and a fall return is expected. - photo by Austin Steele

Members of Charlie Company’s Family Readiness Group, a support group made up of the soldiers’ spouses, are preparing for their loved ones’ return this fall. 

Signs with such messages as “Welcome home my brave Daddy!” and “Welcome home Papaw” lie on a table in a room at the armory.

A definitive date hasn’t been set for the return, and families may not know the exact date and time until the week that it happens, Nigro said.

Soldiers ultimately will arrive at Fort Stewart, where they’ll stay for a couple of weeks before being allowed to go separate ways.

Kelly Pruitt, whose husband is Sgt. 1st Class Mack Pruitt, said she has been trying to work on a homecoming for the unit, but no luck so far.

“When they cut them loose (at Fort Stewart), there’s no reeling them in,” she said.

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Members with the Family Readiness group make welcome home signs for Gainesville's Army National Guard unit, Charlie Company, at the Georgia Army National Guard in Gainesville on Saturday, June 29, 2019. The unit has been deployed in Afghanistan since November and a fall return is expected. - photo by Austin Steele

The soldiers did get a big sendoff on Nov. 26, with cheering onlookers lining roads leading to Gainesville High School, where they left in buses. They waved U.S. flags and signs with patriotic messages, shouting “We love you!” and “Thank you!” to the soldiers.

After some pre-mission training, the soldiers arrived in Afghanistan in January.

“They’re doing well and seem in good spirits,” Nigro said. 

“Nothing major (has happened),” Pruitt said. “It’s been very successful as far as that goes.”

One particular positive, Nigro said, is that “communication has been very good this deployment.”

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Dayna Molyneaux braves the cold weather Monday, Nov. 26, 2018, as she waits for Gainesville-based Charlie Company, to pass by during a sendoff for the outfit. - photo by Scott Rogers

Unlike the unit’s previous deployment 10 years ago, “we’re able to communicate directly with the soldiers,” she said.

The soldiers’ mission is to improve the Afghan army, said the unit’s commander, Capt. John Whitmire, a Flowery Branch native, in an interview before deployment last year.

U.S. forces have been involved in Afghanistan since 2001 — or after 9/11 — in what has become America’s longest war.

As the Afghans take over militarily, “we’re taking a step back,” Whitmire said. “We’re doing advising, primarily. We’re handing over the reins and giving them the ability (to operate) on their own.”

Nigro described the soldiers’ return home as a “redeployment” — one that requires an adjustment period.

“We’ve been posting articles (for Family Readiness members) about reconnecting with your spouse and children,” she said.

Pruitt said the soldiers experience “a mentality change” upon returning.

“They’ve left, but we’ve continued adapting and living and doing our thing,” she said. “Now they have to reintegrate into whatever we’ve done.”

Pruitt added: “It can be really overwhelming to be in a combat zone and come back and the yard has to be cut and the air conditioning is broken. We’ve got soldiers who are going to come home to babies that weren’t born or were just born right before they left.”


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Stars are placed onto a welcome home sign for Gainesville's Army National Guard Unit, Charlie Company, at the Georgia Army National Guard in Gainesville on Saturday, June 29, 2019. The unit has been deployed in Afghanistan since November and a fall return is expected. - photo by Austin Steele
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