Story and photo by Andrea Sutherland
In the early morning hours May 10, 115 Soldiers from 615th Engineer Company, 52nd Eng. Battalion, returned home.
Family, friends and fellow Soldiers gathered at the Special Events Center to welcome the engineers, who spent the last year in Bahrain where they participated in security force missions with the Bahraini army.
“Tonight, we welcome home the great men and women of the 615th Eng. Company,” said Col. Ryan Gonsalves, deputy commanding general for maneuver, 4th Infantry Division and Fort Carson, during the ceremony. “No matter where you serve, no matter what you do, we want to thank you.”
“The deployment was great,” said Spc. Jessica Bruce, medic. “Being home, it feels surreal. It doesn’t feel like it’s happened. For the last year, home has been a tent.”
Bruce said the engineers spent the first four months of their deployment in Kuwait, training with Kuwait’s army and building guard shacks.
“In Bahrain, the mission changed,” she said.
Engineers worked alongside Navy and Air Force servicemembers as well as Bahraini soldiers on joint force missions securing Shaikh Isa Air Base.
“Working with all of the different forces, it felt kind of homey,” Bruce said. “I don’t regret one second of the past year.”
Family members anxious to see their Soldiers said the past year brought challenges, but also growth.
Sara Lenge said she completed her degree in animal science and began working at a veterinary clinic while her husband, Sgt. Charles Cheesman, was away.
Melissa Parker kept her children, Maverick, 2, and Gabriel, 6, busy throughout their father’s absence.
“It’s been crazy,” she said. “This is our first deployment, but the boys did great.”
Gabriel said he was excited to have his father home so they could go to the park together.
Once they were finally able to embrace and hold their loved ones, some spouses were speechless.
“I’m shaking,” said Nicole Dennis as she clung to her Soldier, Spc. Greg Dennis. “This is the best day.”
Tiffany Baxter welcomed home her husband, Spc. Thomas Baxter.
“It’s late. I’m tired. I’m ready to go home,” Thomas Baxter said.
Before he could leave, though, Thomas Baxter’s commanders held an impromptu promotion ceremony for the specialist.
Cradling their 1-year-old daughter, Tiffany Baxter pinned a sergeant patch to her husband’s uniform.
Despite being sleep deprived, Lynn Willey said she was thrilled to welcome her daughter, 1st Lt. Leslie Willey home.
“I saw her a year ago,” Lynn Willey said. “It’s wonderful to have her home. This is the best Mother’s Day present ever.”
“It was a long trip (home),” Leslie Willey said. “It’s been a long year. I’m glad (the Soldiers) all got home safely.”