Fourteen Fort Carson soldiers returned to Colorado Springs Thursday afternoon after seven months spent improving and expanding American military instillations in Afghanistan.
It was a short and smooth deployment for the soldiers of the 52nd Engineer Battalion's 40th Engineer Detachment. The unit didn't suffer any casualties. Time flew for the soldiers as they traveled the country, expanding forward operating bases, improving living conditions and creating helicopter landing zones, soldiers said.
Among the 60 waiting to greet the engineers on Thursday was Jessie Gonzales, who was waiting for her boyfriend, Spc. Matt McMillin,
Like several in the unit, the deployment was McMillin's first.
"This was the longest seven months of my life," Gonzales said after the ceremony.
McMillin's mother, Carolyn Quarles, accompanied Gonzales to the ceremony.
"He was on a lot of prayer lists," Quarles said as she pushed her glasses back and wiped away tears.
McMillin put his arms around the two women and smiled.
"She worries even when I'm here," he said as he gave his mom a playful nudge.
Waiting for Spc. Todd Burton on Thursday was his wife, Brittany, and the couple's three children.
On the home front, the deployment was "constant chaos," Brittany Burton said.
Todd Burton deployed just weeks after arriving at Fort Carson from Fort Sam Houston, Texas, where he'd been recovering at the post's Warrior Transition Unit from back injuries suffered during a training exercise.
Navigating a new community, parenting three kids alone and dealing her husband's first deployment wasn't easy, Brittany said.
"I looked forward to bedtime and school," she said with a laugh.
Within minutes of reuniting, talk quickly turned to house hunting for Sgt. Rick Deobler and his wife, Cindy.
The couple spent the deployment communicating about online real estate listings and planned to tour several houses over Memorial Day weekend.
"It kept me focused on home," he said.