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'Like winning the Super Bowl'
Alpha Battery back home in Georgia
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FORT STEWART-It was worth the wait for the families and soldiers of Alpha Battery.

The Springfield-based Alpha Battery of the 1/118 Field Artillery Battalion marched its way across a soggy Cottrell Field parade ground at Fort Stewart and minutes later, into the arms of ecstatic loved ones to complete their deployment to Afghanistan.

The unit left nearly 10 months ago and return to south Georgia early – very early – Tuesday morning.

“We’re going to Disney World,” said Heather Durden, whose husband Ricky Durden was one of the first 48th Brigade soldiers to come home. “The last two weeks, we’ve been talking about Disney World.”

Frank and Michele Patterson, along with Shannon Patterson, waited for the return of Frank Jr. and William Patterson.

“We’re quite proud of these boys,” Frank Patterson Sr. said.

Mother Michele has carried a picture of her two sons through several parades in Effingham County. Now, they’re back home in the flesh.

“He looks good, real good,” she said of her youngest son William, while Frank Jr. reunited with his wife Shannon.

The deployment to Afghanistan was the second combat tour of duty for the elder Patterson son, having served with the 48th Brigade during its rotation in Iraq.

“It’s nice, nice to be home,” he said. “It’s been hard. Just another journey in the book.”

Bridget Mingle of Statesboro waited on her husband, who was also completing his second tour of duty.

“It’s been long, very long and very stressful,” she said of the separation.

The Mingles have been in contact “pretty much every day,” she said. “It has helped a lot.”

The returning soldiers were hailed by Brig. Gen. Maria Britt, the commanding general of the Georgia Army National Guard, before their families were turned loose to welcome them home.

“Welcome home to the greatest land in the world,” she said. “You have had a successful mission. Alpha Battery, you have made us proud. You’ve done a super job.”

For Ricky Durden, the walk across Cottrell Field and catching his wife’s leap into his arms was nothing short of victorious.

“It’s like just winning the Super Bowl,” he said. “I’m ready to go to Disney World.”

For more on the return of Alpha Battery and for photos of Tuesday morning’s welcome home ceremony, come back to and see Friday’s edition of the Effingham Herald.