July 20, 2011
The small but tight-knit 62nd Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company was welcomed home to Fort Carson on Wednesday in an intimate ceremony marked with the usual cheers and tears that greet returning warriors.
The soldiers spent nearly a year stationed throughout Afghanistan, where they provided bomb disposal operations support to Carson’s 1st Brigade Combat Team, the last of which returned to the Mountain Post nearly two weeks ago.
During its year at war, the 44-soldier company completed a “staggering” 877 emergency response missions and served as a “tremendous force multiplier” to the 1st BCT, Brig. Gen. James Doty, Fort Carson commander, said at the ceremony. The company is part of Fort Carson’s 242nd Ordnance Battalion, which is one of four battalions that make up the 71st Ordnance Group.
The company lost one soldier, Staff Sgt. Matthew West, the month it arrived in Afghanistan and earned a total of nine Purple Hearts. Four wounded soldiers were sent home because of their injuries.
Two of those soldiers, Staff Sgt. Tyler Lewis and Sgt. Steve Huffman, rejoined their comrades in formation Wednesday amidst fervent applause.
Lewis sustained injuries to the hands and face after an improvised bomb exploded last August.
He returned to duty this spring and was assigned to a different company, which is preparing to deploy to Afghanistan next year.
Though he didn’t spend much time with his comrades in Afghanistan before his injuries forced him to return stateside, he said the reunion was nonetheless “awesome.”
“It’s been a long time since I’ve seen them,” Lewis said. “I spent a long time training with them. It’s nice to see them back and safe.”
Huffman nearly lost his leg after kneeling on a landmine while clearing a compound in October. He has yet to return to duty but hopes to in the next few months.
He said the reunion was emotional.
“It was fantastic to see everybody make it back safe aside from the two guys who were wounded who couldn’t make it up here,” he said.
Rebekah Corcoran said she had expected her husband to frequently be in danger during their year apart due to the nature of his job. The company’s large number of casualties made the tour especially long and tedious, said Corcoran, who reunited with her husband, Staff Sgt. K.C. Corcoran, at Wednesday’s ceremony.
K.C. said the hardest part of the deployment was losing West, whom he had previously worked with at Fort Lewis.
“It hit home pretty hard, especially that early in the deployment,” he said. “In a way, it set the tone for what the rest of the tour was going to be like.”