FAIRBANKS — The last thing returning soldiers want to do when they arrive home after a deployment, sometimes late at night, is make their beds, not to mention purchase towels or midnight snacks.
Cyndi Raugh, Family Readiness Group leader for the 5th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment of the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, was helping a group of volunteers recently prepare single soldiers’ barracks for their arrival. She hoped to recreate some of the creature comforts that soldiers remember from home.
“It’s an easier way of reacclimating to civilization — so we’re just trying to provide some of that,” she said.
There are about 93 soldiers returning from an Afghanistan deployment in the coming month that will not be coming home to a family. The 93 are either single or “geographical bachelors” with families that live elsewhere.
Raugh said it’s sometimes sad to watch the single soldiers as their comrades embrace family members at welcoming ceremonies. As many soldiers disappear with family members, the single soldiers are brought back to their barracks to unpack and unwind. With the help of the readiness group, though, those soldiers will arrive at their barracks rooms to ready-made beds and surprise treats.
Raugh said parents of soldiers chipped in and purchased things to be distributed among the soldiers’ barracks, including gift cards and bulk items. She said the most meaningful things they provided from afar were cards and letters.
Beka Zerbst, who volunteers with the readiness group even though her husband is no longer part of the cavalry unit, said the group’s volunteer work is impressive. About 30 to 40 wives from the squadron helped with the preparations.
While each of the troops’ rooms received attention, including welcome signs on the doors, people were also decorating a common meeting room with signs for each soldier and hanging stars and streamers.
Sgt. Nicholas Ungs, who returned from Afghanistan on emergency leave, was helping decorate for the rest of his returning unit.
“I know how excited these guys are going to be when they get back here,” he said.
He said the anticipation starts building as the soldiers are flown out of Kuwait, and the feeling becomes overwhelming.
When they finally arrive in Fairbanks, Ungs said, the appreciation shown by the decorations and preparations will mean a lot.