FORT BENNING, Ga. – Army Rangers who were among the first U.S. troops on the ground in Afghanistan arrived home early Friday, but the excitement at the base was muted somewhat by the sorrow that two of their numbers would not return.
As many as 300 members of the 75th Ranger Regiment, part of the Army's premier light infantry force, were flown to Fort Benning, where family members had gathered to meet them.
Their plane landed about 6:45 after being in a holding pattern because of fog, and even then they had to wait close to an hour before deplaning.
The delay didn't bother Chris Ryan as she waited in a hangar at a post airstrip to see her husband, Capt. Robert Ryan. It had been two weeks since she had talked to him.
"Just to have him home, we'll be happy. It's been a long time," said Ryan, 32.
The 75th is the second special operations unit to return from Operation Enduring Freedom. The 528th Special Operations Support Battalion returned to Fort Bragg, N.C., on Wednesday.
Base spokesman Maj. Richard Patterson said soldiers of the 75th dropped into Afghanistan Oct. 19. That same day, two members of the regiment, Pfc. Kristofor T. Stonesifer, 28, and Spc. Jonn J. Edmunds, 20, were aboard a Black Hawk helicopter that crashed in Pakistan.
Both Stonesifer of Missoula, Mont., and Edmunds of Cheyenne, Wyo., were killed in the crash. Theirs were the second and third deaths of U.S. servicemen in the military campaign against Al Qaeda and the Taliban militia.
Officials would not say what mission the Black Hawk was flying. Some believed it was preparing to cross into Afghanistan in the event any Rangers had to be rescued.