With fewer deployments, more Fort Bragg families celebrate, spend close to home

— Fewer deployments for troops from Fort Bragg this year are turning into a boon to local businesses. On Wednesday at Cross Creek Mall, the troops were on a last-minute gift-buying mission, and that had business owners happy.

Master Sgt. Alton Hemingway’s wife is also a soldier, but she’s deployed. That’s why he and his daughters were out doing some last-minute Christmas shopping together.

“It feels like not all the family is here,” said Jaleen Hemingway. “I always spend every Christmas with her, so it’s very different for me, and I really miss her.”

Kelly Shoe was celebrating a surprise homecoming by her son who is in the Air Force. He hadn’t been home since he left for basic training a year ago until he surprised the family last week.

“It’s very special,” Shoe said. “I’ve only seen him three times, well, two times since he graduated from basic training, and this Christmas will be the third time.” 

At the mall, the Christmas spirit was apparent, even though Bricen Davenport says money can’t buy the gift he’s most happy to receive: having his dad home this year for Christmas.

“It’s very joyful, and sometimes you don’t get to see him a lot. It’s very happy to me,” Davenport said.

Merchants are happy too. Soldiers and airmen pump millions of dollars into the economies of several counties that surround the post. While economists are expecting strong sales nationwide this holiday season, local business owners like Norman Mumford know the importance of having as many soldiers home during the holidays as possible.

“You know, that’s where the money’s at,” he said. “And it’s good to have them back so that they can be with their families and stuff too.”

More soldiers are on the way home. A unit from the 1st Sustainment Brigade is scheduled to return to Fort Bragg Friday.

A special thank you to our friends at WRAL for helping out with this post.