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Family, friends greet 3rd Brigade soldiers returning from Iraq

After driving 11 hours straight from Belleville, Ill., and waiting more than six hours at Fort Benning’s Lawson Army Airfield for his nephew to arrive from Iraq, Jed Agne couldn’t find him.

He lost sight of Spc. Kevin Schmidt when the 160 members of the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division were released to meet with family and friends in Freedom Hall about 90 minutes after their 12:45 p.m. arrival.

“I saw him march into the building but then he disappeared when everyone scattered,” Agne said. The building had practically cleared when the two connected. Schmidt wasn’t concerned that there was only one from home who could make the trip to see him.

“My uncle here is all I need today,” Schmidt said, smiling. “I’m glad to see him. I knew he’d be here. Now, I’m ready to spend some relaxing time with him.”

Preparing to leave as Schmidt and Agne chatted, was Maj. Michael Anders. It was taking him a little longer to leave the building because he had 22 family members to greet. Besides his wife, Elaine, and five children, were relatives from Indiana, Tennessee and Alabama.

“It’s wonderful to be back. I am very thankful,” Anders said. “I have several children with birthdays coming up and I wanted to be home for that.”

The group had a trip planned to Chili’s Grill and Bar for a special dessert they like.

“I’m proud of the work our soldiers did in Iraq,” Anders said.

This was his third deployment; he has served in Egypt and Afghanistan.

“It’s always difficult when he’s gone,” said his wife. She said it is a little better these days when you can communicate via computer.

The major’s mother, Mary Anders of Knoxville, Tenn., was also among those waiting.

“I’m just so proud,” she said. “He always wanted to be a soldier and he’s a fine one. It’s great to have him back.”

Agne, an electrician, said it was unfortunate that he was the only one who could get free to meet Schmidt.

“I drove Kevin’s Jeep down here and was towing my motorcycle behind it.”

Agne said he was still nervous about his nephew until he saw him departing the airplane. He said his nephew has held several jobs but thinks Schmidt has found one he really likes in the Army.

“Kevin’s learning a lot. He works with radar and is going to be honored for a system he has developed,” Agne said. “We talk all the time but it’s better to actually be with him again.”