Nightly News | December 13, 2011
BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: Finally tonight, the real proof that, as we've been reporting, nearly all American troops are scheduled to be out of Iraq by New Year's Eve , back home and reunited at long last with their friends and family. Today at Fort Bliss in El Paso , what has become a familiar happy scene. A planeload of men and women in uniform, fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, finished their long journey home. And NBC 's Janet Shamlian was there.
JANET SHAMLIAN reporting: A wait that has lasted months is just moments from being over.
Mr. BYRON ISLER: Right now, for some reason, I am pretty nervous.
SHAMLIAN: Byron Isler brought flowers for his wife, Thomasine . And the Medrano children are making signs for their dad, Carlos , returning from his fourth and final deployment to Iraq .
Ms. CYNTHIA MEDRANO (Soldier's Wife): Now I'm happy because he's coming home and I know he's coming home alive.
SHAMLIAN: But among the friends and family, two small sisters are blissfully unaware today is the day .
Ms. ASHLEY HOPKINS: It's going to be like them opening one of their biggest presents on Christmas morning seeing him.
SHAMLIAN: Ashley Hopkins told daughters Lillian and Kaitlin they were here to welcome someone else's father home. Sergeant Brian Hopkins has missed birthdays and anniversaries, but he won't miss Christmas . For the past few weeks, the auditorium here at Fort Bliss has looked just like this, full of families and heavy with anticipation as another planeload of troops arrives home. As the soldiers walk toward their families, six-year-old Lillian realizes the homecoming is her father's.
Miss LILLIAN HOPKINS: Daddy!
SHAMLIAN: The initial reunions are quick. Soldiers have to be debriefed and return their weapons. And then they can return to their families. For the Hopkins ...
Sergeant BRIAN HOPKINS: Hey...
SHAMLIAN: ...the Medranos...
Mr. CARLOS MEDRANOS: I missed you. Yeah. Are we going to play now?
SHAMLIAN: ...and the Islers ...
Ms. THOMASINE ISLER: Oh, it's great to be home. It is great. I missed him so much.
SHAMLIAN: ...there may be other deployments and more time away, but for now the Iraq chapter of their service comes to a close.
Mr. ISLER: It's a wonderful day.
SHAMLIAN: And this is time for family. Janet Shamlian , NBC News,