Jonesboro - Emotions run rampant for families of the 875th on the eve of their arrival home. There's excitement, anticipation and a sense of pride knowing the sacrifices each and every soldier's family has made over the past year for their country. One such place where that's well-understood is a family whose name is synonymous with the 875th.
Mention the name "Daddy" and 13-month-old Tripp Dale runs to the refrigerator where his Daddy's picture hangs secured by a yellow ribbon magnet. However, instead of running to the refrigerator to see a picture, soon this little guy will be able to see the man he's only seen in person for two weeks of his entire life.
"Now that it's over with, I just can't believe that it's already been a year," said Tabbatha Dale, also a member of the 875th Engineer Battalion. "When I look at my son and he's a year old, I think man this year has gone by fast. But then when I think of Hunter (my husband) being gone, it seems like he's been gone 5 years."
Achieving the rank of Sgt. E-5 in the Arkansas Army National Guard, Tabbatha Dale knew what to expect. She and her husband met in the Guard and married.
However, she could not be deployed with the 875th to Iraq due to her pregnancy.
"It was real hard at first thinking that they need me. I need them. I'm getting to stay here and have the luxury of seeing my family everyday," explains Tabbatha.
And speaking of family, Sgt. First Class Hunter Dale comes from a long line of family members in the 875th Engineer Battalion.
"There's Hunter.... Jasper Dale, Jed, Ronnie Dale. Their Grandpa was also in the Guard," said Tabbatha.
Despite the family tradition, deployment hasn't been easy.
Thankfully, Tabbatha's mother-in-law came to live with her to help care for the new baby for the first three months... And then there were the baby blues.
"All I could do was cry to him 'cause he was the one that I vent to," explained Tabbatha. "And I hated doing that because I know he's probably thinking I'm all the way over here in Iraq and I can't help her."
Thank heaven for friends. Alicia McCartney is the wife of First Lt. Luke McCartney, also with the 875th.
"Our husbands were best friends before and we just kind of knew each other," said Alicia. "But over the past year we became best friends."
"She had bought this for me the week my Grandma passed away (points to a potted plant in her home), said Tabbatha.
Trials and tribulations... there have been many.
Not hearing from your husband in several days could make you think the worst.
"There were nights that I didn't talk to my husband and I'd send her a text message at one or two in the morning," said Alicia. "I just needed that comfort."
Dark days behind them, these wives are ready to celebrate-- by writing a new chapter in their lives and the life of this smiling, happy toddler.
"From day one, I kept saying, Daddy, Daddy. Daddy. Showing him pictures," said Tabbatha. "I think that really paid off because Hunter was so scared that when he came home he wouldn't know who his is. But I told him I think this has all worked out like we wanted it do because Tripp knows who his Daddy is."