Amari’ Sanon is the apple of her daddy’s eye.
Sgt. 1st Class Pierre Sanon, one of 250 Fort Benning soldiers to arrive back from Iraq this morning, admits as much.
"I’ve probably spoiled her a bit, probably more than the other two kids," laughed Sanon, as his 7-year-old daughter clung tightly to his right leg, vowing not to let her father out of her sight again.
At the same time, however, the 17-year Army veteran squeezed daughter Keyonna, 11, with one arm, and son Traivon, 8, with the other.
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Stefanie Sanon stepped back to view the family portrait, and smiled.
"This is the last time he’ll be leaving us," she said.
She mouthed the words "I hope."
The Sanon family will soon be as far away from the Iraqi desert as one can get.
"Pierre has orders to Hawaii," said Stefanie, a native of Quitman, Ga. "We need a break."
Sanon. a native of the Virgin Islands, nodded in agreement. "This was a long (15 months) and wild ride," said the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team NCO, referring to what was his third combat tour and his second with the brigade. He served with the unit's Brigade Special Troops Battalion.
The Sanon family was just one of dozens that arrived at Lawson Army Airfield shortly after sunrise to greet their loved ones as they debarked their chartered aircraft.
Tom Morris made the 15-hour drive from Kansas City, Mo. Thursday to meet his daughter, Sgt. Julie Boswell.
He had a present waiting for her - a bundle of roses.
Roses seemed to be the order of the day for some.
Tim Micu had a bunch for his wife, Spc. Cristen Micu.
And Spc. Cynthia Clabaugh, who was waiting for her boyfriend, Spc. Matthew Defiore, was also carrying flowers.
Clabaugh, who redeployed back to Fort Benning last week, is Cristen Micu’s best friend.
"It was a long tour," Clabaugh admitted. "But it was an awesome experience."
As has been the custom this year, families and friends are asked to wait up to two hours at Freedom Hall, the airport terminal, while the soldiers leave the plane, turn in their equipment, in-process and watch a Marne 6 (division commander) safety briefing.
"Time really does go pretty fast," said Shana Williams, who was carrying more balloons than a circus vendor. "Many of us know one another, so we pass time talking."
Stefanie Sanon, whose children enjoyed a day off from school in order to meet their dad, said she tried her best over the past 15 months to keep her kids busy.
"You try to keep their mind off the fact that their dad is deployed and that a war is going on," she said.
Keyonna, a student at East Columbus Magnet, said playing with friends did indeed keep her mind off her father's absence.
But, she conceded, "a lot of my friends have dads who are deployed, too."
The family said it was going to surprise Sergeant Sanon with a seafood dinner Thursday night. "Lobster, crabs, whatever he wants," said Amari'. "His birthday is Sunday, so this will be a big party."
A second flight ferrying soldiers from Iraq is due in tonight. Earlier in the day, the transfer of authority from the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team to the 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, took place at Forward Operating Base Hammer.
The remaining Fort Benning troops then boarded helicopters for Kuwait and ultimately their trip back home.