Deployed soldier returns to warm welcome

A Lebanon soldier returned home late Wednesday night after a 10-month deployment halfway around the world. Staff Sgt. Jimmy Wooldridge with the 304th Military Police Battalion out of Fort Campbell returned after a nearly 10-month stay at the Transit Center in Manas, Kyrgyzstan. The base op...
Jul 11, 2013
 Photo: Jared Felkins • Lebanon Democrat

Staff Sgt. Jimmy Wooldridge talks about his deployment Thursday with his wife, Brittany, and neighbor, Ryan Stapleton.
 Photo: Jared Felkins • Lebanon Democrat

At a welcome home gathering Thursday at Hartmann Plantation, pictured are (from left) Brittany Wooldridge, Ainsley Wooldridge, Staff Sgt. Jimmy Wooldridge, Jerry Hardin, Maria Olson, Fabian Pena, Paula Burgess, Tammy Williams and Ryan Stapleton.

A Lebanon soldier returned home late Wednesday night after a 10-month deployment halfway around the world.

Staff Sgt. Jimmy Wooldridge with the 304th Military Police Battalion out of Fort Campbell returned after a nearly 10-month stay at the Transit Center in Manas, Kyrgyzstan. The base opened in 2001 to support U.S. military operations in the ongoing war in neighboring Afghanistan.

“Honestly I don’t know how to describe it,” Wooldridge said. “It’s a relaxing feeling.

“I know the little one has missed me. I’m not sure about the wife. I’m pretty sure she has, but she hasn’t let on yet.”

His wife, Brittany, and 6-year-old daughter, Ainsley, met him at the airport when his flight arrived Wednesday at about 10:30 p.m.

Wooldridge described his third Middle East deployment as a little less eventful than his first two in 2003-04 and 2005-06 both in Iraq.

“That was when everything kicked off,” Wooldridge said. “It was a little more upbeat than this one.”

Wooldridge said he and the other soldiers in his unit worked as customs and border patrol agents, which also included cargo clearance.

“When we got to know what we were doing, it was Groundhog Day, the same thing over and over again,” Wooldridge said. “The only thing I was combating was boredom.”

The Wytheville, Va., native moved to Lebanon about three years ago after working as a delivery driver for Performance Food Group in Lebanon for two years prior.

“After running back and forth from Hendersonville, I figured it was time to get a little closer,” he said.

Wooldridge said he plans to return to his civilian job Aug. 5, but not before a little rest and relaxation.

“I’m going to take about a month off,” he said. “We’re going to take a trip to Gulf Shores, Ala. and let the little one visit the beach for the first time.”

Wooldridge said prior to his latest deployment, he was making trips to Georgia and Alabama, delivering products to Applebee’s and Zaxby’s restaurants.

“That’s going to take a little bit of adjustment,” he said. “The hours will have to be adjusted. It won’t be like the schedule I had. I went up there [Thursday]. They were excited to see me. I’m excited to get back.”

Wooldridge also received a hero’s welcome from the workers at Hartmann Plantation in Lebanon where he lives. He said the climate may be the biggest adaptation he’ll have to make now that he’s home.

“The heat here is just ridiculous now,” Wooldridge said. “Whenever we were leaving, the temperature got up to around 100 degrees, but it was dry heat. The winter was pretty rough. It stayed around 20-below zero and never got above zero for most of the time.”

As for putting in for another deployment, Wooldridge said he received a promotion to instructor in the National Guard, so he’s planning on staying in the U.S. for a while.

“I think I’m going to chill out and spend some time with the family before that happens again any time soon,” he said.

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