Fort Hood Hosts Texas-Size Homecoming Celebration
By Tam Cummings
Special to American Forces Press Service
FORT HOOD, Texas, April 23, 2004 The flag of the Army's 4th Infantry Division was uncased here April 22 in ceremonies marking the official return of Task Force Ironhorse to the nation's largest military base.
Division commander Maj. Gen. Ray Odierno and Les Brownlee, acting secretary of the Army, oversaw the event held before an estimated crowd of 60,000 soldiers, family members and national, state and community leaders.
Some 700 soldiers took part in the uncasing, representing the various units that made up the task force in Operation Iraqi Freedom. The division colors had been cased one month ago at Operation Forward Danger in Iraq as the division prepared to redeploy. Soldiers from Fort Hood's 1st Cavalry Division took their place.
"Thirteen months ago, in March 2003, Task Force Ironhorse was deployed to destroy a corrupt and dangerous regime," Brownlee said. Iraqis found the "veil of oppression lifted" because of the success of the soldiers' mission, he continued. "They overcame all difficulties and succeeded in typical Ironhorse fashion. They established their headquarters in Tikrit, Saddam Hussein's hometown."
Odierno praised the soldiers, saying their "capture of Saddam symbolized an end to the psychological, political and military terror" the dictator represented to the people of Iraq. "Task Force Ironhorse soldiers and other members of the team never let up," he said.
"Never before has a theater of operations been more complex," the general told the crowd. "You (soldiers) are as bright and innovative as you are lethal. No doubt our enemy would attempt to defeat us here. But we will destroy them in their own nest. The 4th Infantry Division and the nation will never forget your sacrifice."
Odierno thanked family members representing division soldiers who died in service. "It is a debt we can never repay," he said, turning right to address the seated families. "Seventy-nine soldiers of Ironhorse made the ultimate sacrifice. We in the nation are in awe of the families of these soldiers. Your loss is not in vain."
The general told the group, "The fight continues in Iraq and around the world today," and that "small bands of heartless, murderous criminals" will be punished.
Odierno also thanked families attending the uncasing for their support of the troops during the deployment. "This is a celebration of the return of heroes," he said. "For an Army spouse, there is uncertainty, worrying whether your soldier is in harm's way. One who provides strength today needs to cry tomorrow."
Following the pass in review, four sets of balloons were released into the cloudy sky. Red, white and blue balloons represented the soldiers, yellow balloons served as a reminder of soldiers still at their posts, purple balloons honored the wounded, and black balloons marked memories for the slain soldiers.
(Tam Cummings is assigned to Fort Hood public affairs.)