Haunting Experience For Alabama Army National Guardsman In Iraq

Sgt. Robert Williamson
Sgt. Robert Williamson

Montgomery, Al. (WSFA) -- Thirty minutes before the 1146th Personnel Services Battalion with the Alabama Army National Guard came home to Montgomery, you could see and sense the nervous excitement as moms, dads and even girlfriends waited for the bus to pull in.

"I missed him everyday and we didn't get a chance to talk as much like we used to," said Debbie Keener, mother of Specialist Robert Williamson.

For Keener her son Robert Williamson's homecoming will be especially sweet, gratifying considering the story Keener has to tell.

"He had some bad experiences over there," Keener said.

Williamson and 28 of his fellow guardsmen deployed to Iraq more than a year ago to handle the administrative and logistics for combat troops such as:

"All the paperwork and medical stuff," said Battalion Commander Dan Speigner.

Still a dangerous job when you consider the battlefield in Iraq is everywhere, no visible enemy-line so-to-speak. Keener's son volunteered to go into harm's way and nearly paid for it with his life.

"He was in a convoy, 4th one back I think. The 7th one got hit by a roadside bomb. He stopped to help him but he died in my son's arms, a 19-year old soldier. My son woke up that night in a cold sweat and he was really upset about it," Keener said.

By now the homecoming has arrived at the Taylor Hardin Armory in north Montgomery. Overcome with emotions, Debbie Keener welcomed home a son who was so close to not coming home. He is only 23.

"It feels good to be with family," said Robert Williamson.

Feels good to be with his family but in the end Specialist Robert Williamson simply could not talk about the story his mom told us about. Too pain, too fresh.

"We'll pull together. We'll have to trust in God," said Keener.

Keener says she didn't know what state the 19-year old soldier was from. For now the Keener family plans to spend some quiet time at home.

The 1146th could be called up again but not for at least 30 months.