With tears in her eyes, Brittney Lowe of Smithfield held a sign that read, “I’ve waited 317 days for this moment. Welcome home, SPC Larrivee.” She, along with at least 300 others, patiently waited at the Warwick Armory on Airport Road for the arrival of their loved ones, as approximately 130 soldiers of the 1/126th Aviation Regiment deployed to Kuwait in support of the Global War on Terror returned home Thursday after a yearlong deployment.
Perched on the shoulders of her boyfriend’s brother, Evan Larrivee, Lowe waved her sign in anticipation of the arrival of her boyfriend, SPC Cole Larrivee, 22. During the last year, the couple has mostly been communicating via Facebook.
“Oh, my God – there he is,” Lowe yelled upon seeing Cole enter the room. “Put me down!”
Per her request, Evan, also accompanied by his mother, Lori, and sister, Rachel, lowered Lowe to the floor and she leapt into Cole’s arms. The two immediately began hugging and kissing, as many of the other couples were doing. The room boomed with heartfelt cries of joy.
“I’m just excited to be home,” Cole said, his arms wrapped around Lowe.
He also took a moment to embrace his loved ones, including Evan.
“I’m really excited to see him,” Evan said.
Evan and Cole’s father, Eric, also attended the homecoming. He said he is thrilled to know his son is home safe after serving the country.
“It’s very mixed emotions,” said Eric. “You have a lot of pride in your child, but you’re wondering how he’s doing. It’s just a big relief that he’s home. I’m very happy.”
For Bet Salmon of Newport, seeing the return of her daughter, 1st Lieutenant Carley Salmon, 25, was equally emotional. Carley’s grandmother, Marcia Salmon, agreed. “Excited” and “proud” were the words they used to describe their feelings.
Carley is ecstatic to be home, and was looking forward to be reunited not only with her loved ones, but also her dog and three cats. However, she was also concerned about adjusting to civilian life.
“There’s a little bit of anxiousness, too, about getting back to a normal routine,” she said. “We were working 24-7, so having a lot of time off is going to be weird. But it’s great to be home and seeing all the children running around.”
Speaking of children, SPC Maritza Berganza, 25, of Cranston could not wait to be reunited with her son, Evan, 2. While she came hope for a brief vacation in June, holding him again made her day.
“I’m excited, happy and overwhelmed,” said Berganza, who stood with her family, including her fiancé, Julio Morales. “I love you. I miss you. Welcome home,” were his first words to her.
Aside from her family, there was one main thing Berganza missed most while away.
“Home cooked meals,” she said with a smile.
The unit returned to the Armory after arriving at T.F. Green Airport. During their yearlong deployment, soldiers performed direct support aviation missions using UH-60 Blackhawk Helicopters in the Central Command area of operations, Southwest Asia.