For Joe Carnes the most challenging moments in the last nine months were potty-training daughter Ashlyn, who just turned 3 last month, without her mom around.
"Mommy’s missed two of her birthdays," said Carnes, a finish carpenter who played full-time dad to their two little girls. He said his wife’s return means "I’ll finally have a vacation."
Tuesday evening at Schofield Barracks, mom, Pvt. 1st Class Amie Carnes, came home from Iraq to the waiting arms of her two daughters and husband and received hugs, including one from Jadenn, 4, who never let go of mom and couldn’t stop smiling.
Carnes was among 353 soldiers of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division out of Schofield Barracks, who returned Tuesday to Hawaii after a year in Iraq. It was the largest group to return this month to Schofield, and a total of 4,000 will return in June. Their mission was to advise and assist Iraqi security forces in the transition as the U.S. military prepares to leave the country within the next several months.
"It’s been a heartache and I really missed them," said Carnes, who held her daughters, one in each arm.
Five 2nd Brigade Combat Team soldiers were killed in Iraq since their deployment last June — two in July while on patrol, two in September when an Iraqi soldier turned on them and one in November by a sniper.
"We train for this reality," said Col. John McLellan, a stability transition team adviser. "We’re glad we were able to bring 353 home safe today, and many more in the months to come."