FORT HOOD, Texas - There's no fast way of "getting back" to normal for soldiers who are deployed away from home for more than a year. Separation from loved ones and friends, along with an accustomed way of life can be hard for even the toughest GI.
For the son of a Cottonwood couple, the moment meant even more. Army Spec. Joshua A. Lawton, son of Kent and Regina Lawton, arrived back at Fort Hood from Iraq, where a world of roadside bombs, sniper fire and harsh living conditions had become a way of life.
Lawton is a member of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division based at Fort Hood. He served as a cavalry scout during the 15-month deployment.
"We worked long and sometimes multiple-day missions assisting in numerous activities such as helping set up local and citizen security, reopening schools and allowing markets to open up, boosting the local economy within Dayala Province," said Lawton, a 2002 graduate of Mingus Union High School.
Securing their region in Iraq was the primary mission for the 1st Cavalry Division and its soldiers, and their efforts paid off.
Roadside bomb explosions were reduced 94 percent, murders dropped from 440 to 45 in a year's time and many shops and businesses in the region began to flourish following several years of Al Qaeda intimidation.
Lawton and his fellow soldiers helped to make a dramatic difference in the lives of those they protected.
"I am proud to have served with all the great soldiers in Apache troop, helping provide a safe environment where kids can now go to school," Lawton said. "Education is something no child should be denied," he said.
After 15 months without family and friends and the creature comforts of home, Lawton and his fellow soldiers are ready to settle in for a sense of their version of "normalcy."
"Being home I realize how many things I took for granted and I'm just glad I made it back alive," he said.
Lawton has been in the Army for three years. He had his training at Fort Knox, Ky., and Fort Hood is his first duty assignment.