More than 2,500 soldiers who had served in Iraq for nearly a year returned to the arms of family members and friends at a welcome home ceremony this past weekend at Baylor University's Floyd Casey Stadium.
The 56th Brigade Combat Team, 36th Infantry Division, was met with a stadium filled with around 27,000 people who had been waiting for their return. Family members had not expected the soldiers back for several more weeks but the return on Dec. 10 granted them an early Christmas present.
"To the 56th, I say, thank you and welcome home," said Gov. Rick Perry, according to the Herald Democrat. "It's a day of celebration, not just for the soldiers returning to the good old Texas soil, but to the family members who've prayed day and night for your safe return. Today we thank a good and great God that those prayers have been answered."
The ceremony event featured the uncasing of the flags and patriotic music including the Lee Greenwood's "I'm Proud to be an American" which incited cheers within the same stadium where the soldiers had been deployed on New Year's Day.
"It has been an honor for Baylor University to work with Fort Hood, not only on the Jan. 1 deployment ceremony but also to be there once again to welcome our troops back home," said Tommye Lou Davis, chief of staff to Baylor's chancellor, according to Baylor. "We have enjoyed working with the Army and the Texas National Guard, and we are appreciative of the special relationship that has been established between the university and our service members."
Along with a "welcome home" for the troops, 29 of the soldiers who were not American citizens when they decided to serve the country were sworn in during a naturalization ceremony that day by U.S. District Judge Walter Smith Jr.
Chartered in 1845, Baylor University is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of Texas and the largest Baptist University in the world.