Ohio National Guard soldiers return from Afghanistan deployment
Dayton Daily News, Ohio
PIQUA, Ohio - A roar greeted the 159 men and women of the Ohio National Guard 1487th Transportation Company, the Iron Camels, as they marched Friday into the Piqua High School gym after 280 days in Afghanistan.
The Piqua-based unit, that includes soldiers from West Central Ohio, last visited the gym Nov. 14, then 160 strong. The missing man was on the minds of the soldiers even when they were in the embrace of their families.
"Cody Suggs, that's what I'll remember from Afghanistan. That's the only memory anyone should have," said Spc. Rusty Chrisman of Arcanum.
Suggs, 22, of West Alexandria, died March 7 at Kandahar Airfield in a non-combat incident. He was a graduate of Twin Valley South High School. Members of his family were in the gym to welcome the Iron Camels home.
The unit served in Kandahar Province, supplying bases throughout southern Afghanistan. In total, they drove more than 170,000 miles on some of the most dangerous roads, Brig. Gen. John Harris said to the troops and families. "You know what sacrifice means. I can't thank you enough."
The troops were drivenon the last miles of their deployment in three charter buses. When they arrived at the high school, the crowd whooped and cheered.
Charleigh Clark of Canal Winchester stood on a bench waving a sign welcoming home her husband. The sign went sailing when she spotted Spc. Kendall Clark as she launched herself into his arms. Soon the couple was surrounded by family in a drizzle that turned to a downpour.
The Clarks were married two weeks before the deployment. They hadn't seen in each other in person since Christmas.
"We wrote letters to each other, Skyped and emailed," Kendall Clark said. Clark, too, said the one memory he took from Afghanistan was Cody Suggs.
His father, Chuck, and mother, Donna, both retired from the Air Force.
"We felt we served so our children shouldn't have to," Chuck Clark said. "But he wanted to do this, and we supported him."
Spc. Chrisman had about 20 friends and family on hand to greet him, including his fiancee, Brook Filby.
"It was hard," she said of his absence. "I kept busy at work and school so I wouldn't think about it."
The brief ceremony ended with the unit's commander, Capt. Stephen Sturgill, telling his men, "It's time to go home."
The troops and family filed out to return to civilian life. Some stayed behind to speak with the Suggs family. Chrisman stepped forward with a package and a few quiet words.
"One of Cody's uncles contacted me and asked if I could get them our unit flag and some patches. That's what I gave them," he later said.