Soldiers from NC's largest guard unit coming home
Nearly half of North Carolina's National Guard troops have spent the last year overseas, including about 4,000 soldiers who belong to the state's largest National Guard Unit. It's called the 30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team. While in Iraq, seven soldiers in the unit were killed in action and 29 were wounded in action. Over the next few weeks, soldiers of the 30th will be coming home to North Carolina. WFAE's Julie Rose witnessed one of the reunions this week. David Pearson and his sister Abigail are wearing army green t-shirts with big yellow ribbons printed on the back. He's six, she's five, and somewhere on the other side of Charlotte Douglas Airport is their big brother, Private Brian Dirscherl of the 1st and 113th Field Artillery. "I'm so proud of my brother," says David. "I'm just so proud because he was fighting in Iraq for the war." Private Dirscherl is 22. He's Sebrena Pearson's oldest son. She's spent the past year of his deployment trying desperately trying to keep her mind off his absence. . .and the danger he's been in. "We got through - I stayed really, really busy," says Sebrena Pearson. "Lots of care packages went out, not just to him, but any soldier I knew wasn't getting mail. Um, and don't watch the news. It's never good. If they said something happened in Iraq - your heart skips a beat and you get sweaty and then, you know I would go on Facebook and see when he'd logged on last so I could see when he'd be on the computer an okay, phew - it was 10 hours ago and he just logged on three hours ago so he's fine. You know?" As she talks, Sebrena scans the face of every passenger coming slowly down the escalator to baggage claim. "He's tall, skinny and he'll be in a uniform," she says. Her voice catches. She remembers the first time she saw her son in his uniform. "In his dress-green uniform it was when he graduated basic training," says Sebrena. "They looked so good! Such a good looking bunch of guys." Sebrena grew up on a military base. Her father was in the Air Force. But to be perfectly honest, she wasn't thrilled when Brian joined the Army right out of high school - in the middle of the Iraq War. "At first I was like, 'No you can't do that,'" she remembers. "Your gut says 'No not my kid.' But then he said to me, 'You taught me this. You raised me this way. I have to do my duty it's your fault.' And so when he turned it around on me, I had to accept that." Now her six-year old son David is talking about being a soldier when he grows up, and Sebrena's not quite ready to accept that. "He's six," she says, laughing. "I'll think about it. If we don't have the war over by the time he's ready to enlist, we got some problems. So, we'll see. He's got time to change his mind." David and Abigail are planning the first thing they'll say to their big brother Brian. "I love you so much - and I'm gonna give him a big hug," says David. "I'm gonna give him a big hug and ask him if he can play the Wii with us," adds Abigail. David spots his brother on the escalator: "I see him!" "I missed you two!" says Private Brian Dirscherl, catching his two young siblings in a big hug. Sebrena sobs quietly as she clings to her son. He's a foot taller than her. Lean and clean shaven in his Army fatigues. He whispers "I'm fine now, Mom. I'm fine." "Okay," she says, sniffing. Then Private Dirscherl turns back to his little brother and sister. "All right, you excited to have Brian home?" the soldier asks. "So what's the first thing we're gonna do?" "Play my Wii!" the kids tell him. "Play your Wii?" says Dirscherl, laughing. The little ones stick to Dirscherl's tail like happy puppies as he goes to retrieve his green army duffel on the baggage carousel. He says he can't wait to see grass and drink water that doesn't come from a bottle. But overall, he says his first deployment went well. "It really did," says Dirscherl. "Um, unfortunately we lost a couple of good buddies over there. But I think with everything that actually went on over there. I think it went pretty well. There's rumors around the mill about mobilizing again for the 30th. But who knows? That's far off in the future. I'm just trying to focus on getting home now." Home is Lincolnton, North Carolina where a celebration dinner of homemade gumbo is waiting on the stove.