ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- After nine months of deployment, more than two dozen soldiers with the 2153rd Financial Management Detachment return home to St. Augustine.
More than two dozen soldiers are now with their families after being deployed overseas for nine months in support of Operation New Dawn.
Long hugs and boisterous laughter fill the room at the Robert Ensslin Armory in St. Augustine.
"Are you happy mommy is home?" returning soldier, Michelle Dupree, asks her five-year-old son.
Newly-enlisted, Dupree is one of 26 soldiers from the 2153rd Financial Management Detachment based in St. Augustine, returning from deployment.
"I've been envisioning it, dreaming of it, there's been a lot of crying," Dupree says.
Timothy Williams is also coming home to little ones, including a new addition to the family.
"This is my five-month-old daughter. I'm finally getting to meet her today," Williams smiles.
"This is just totally amazing. It's worth every bit of the struggle and hard work."
Williams' wife, Danielle, said she's thrilled to have her husband home safe, but said his absence during the baby's birth was not easy.
"I talked to him the whole time on Skype, but when it came down to pushing, I got emotional because he couldn't be there," she explains.
"I mean, I can do it by myself, [laughing], but for him not being there and see it, that was really emotional for me."
The soldiers said their unit does not have any future deployments planned, so for now, both Dupree and Williams will get to focus on their families.
"We'll probably go home, relax and let my kids get to know their daddy," says Williams.
"We're going to go eat some steak," laughs Dupree. "Then we're going to play. And then I'm probably going to sleep with him in his bed for quite awhile."
Though joyous, the soldiers' return raises the question of whether the recent mandatory federal cuts, or sequestration, will mean less pay.
The Florida National Guard has been planning for furloughs since the $85 billion in cuts went into effect March 1st. Spokesperson, Sgt. First Class Blair Heusdens said the cuts will affect about 1,000 soldiers, most of them based in St. Augustine and Jacksonville.
Starting April 29th, they'll be placed on a one-day-a-week unpaid furlough, equaling about a 20% pay cut per person.
But Heusdens said the cuts will not affect the 2153rd because they're not full-time civilian employees.
The Florida National Guard said it will lose $11 million for facilities maintenance and 10% of its readiness equipment will be phased out as part of the cuts. Even still, it maintains that its ability to respond to local and state emergencies will not change.
First Coast News