Vicksburg family welcomes soldier home from Bosnia

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 24, 2003

The Breland family from left, Amber, Randy, Randy Jr., Marianne and Robin, squeeze in together on the living room couch of their home on Goodrum Road Sunday as images of the war in Iraq flash across the television. Randy Breland returned last week from an 8-month peacekeeping mission in Bosnia. (Melanie Duncan ThortisThe Vicksburg Post)

[03/24/03] Life at the Breland home was pretty ho-hum while Detachment Sgt. Randy Breland was stationed in Bosnia for nine months. When he arrived home Thursday, the fun began.

“I’m going to take every moment that I’ve got at home and live it to the fullest,” Breland said.

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Breland’s wife, Marianne, and their children, Amber, Robin and Randy Jr., are to say the least glad to have their “big old teddy bear” home.

Celebrating is the first order of business because the full-time reservist might soon be deployed again.

“We’re going to have a lot of fun and spend as much time with him as we can,” said Marianne Breland, 39.

“It’s boring here without him,” 14-year-old Robin said. “He’s definitely the humorous one in the family,”

Twelve-year-old Amber said their home was different while her father, who’s prone to chasing his children around the house and tickling them, was half a world away. “It felt like something was missing,” she said.

Thursday, the family’s day finally came when they got the hugs and tickles they’d been missing.

“When we pulled up, the kids basically attacked,” said Randy Breland, 37.

Randy Jr. said when he saw his father pull into the armory in Jackson, he was holding a sign that said “Welcome Home, Baldie.”

“I threw it behind me and jumped to the car,” 9-year-old Randy Jr. said. “You can’t hug somebody when you’re holding a sign.”

Breland is a sergeant with Jackson’s 220th Finance Detachment and had been stationed in Bosnia since July 20.

“It was a long trip, but there is no place like home,” he said. “There’s just nothing like it.”

His unit was called to provide a banking and finance system for the U.S. Army soldiers who were stationed in Bosnia as part of the continuing peacekeeping mission following that east European nation’s civil war.

Breland, who’s been in the Army for 15 years, said his duties included cashing soldiers’ checks and paying U.S. Army bills for things such as rental cars and leases on houses and other properties.

In the four days since his homecoming, quality family time is first and foremost on Breland’s mind.

“I can’t even begin to say how amazing it is,” he said. “I’m very excited.”

Breland credits his wife, who is the chairman of the unit’s family support group, with keeping the household together in his absence.

“My wife is the real hero,” he said. “She kept things going back here.”

During his deployment the couple, who have been married for 12 years, talked each morning about 5 o’clock Vicksburg time just as he was taking a lunch break in Bosnia via an Internet video connection, or Webcam.

“That was the highlight of our day,” Marianne Breland said.

She said loneliness and not knowing when her husband would return were the most difficult aspects of his absence.

“After a few months, every time she would say his name she’d start bursting out in tears,” Randy Jr. said.

“I’m just glad it’s over for now,” Marianne Breland said.

While Breland was stationed overseas, Robin and Amber got their braces off, and Amber attended her first dance. However, the big news since his leave was Robin’s new boyfriend, whom Breland met for the first time on Sunday.

“My wife said he’s a good kid and she’s a pretty good judge of character.” Breland said, smiling. “She picked me.”

Despite reveling at being back at home, Breland said if his country needs him during Operation Iraqi Freedom, he will go.

“If I were called to go, I’d salute the flag, get on a plane and be gone,” he said. “We would all go without giving it a second thought, that’s what we do.”

As for Breland’s Army buddies who are fighting overseas now, he said his heart goes out to them.

“I’m overjoyed to be able to come home,” he said. “But at the same time I feel kind of guilty when a lot of my friends are over there.”

Perhaps Breland summed a soldier’s sentiments best when he said, “Part of you feels like you need to be there and part of you wants to wrap your arms around your kids and just never let them go,” he said.

And until duty does call, that’s exactly what he’ll be doing.