Reporting Reg Chapman
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — One of the most decorated Army units is back home in Minnesota.
The 309th Engineer Company made it back to Brainerd after running into more than 300 attacks and roadside bombs in Afghanistan. Surrounded by the Patriot Guard, the company celebrated the end of its tour Sunday.
For many troops in the company, it was their first tour overseas. With less than eight months to train, the soldiers knew their deployment to Afghanistan would be difficult. Eighteen months later, the troops were praised for their heroism and leadership in the field.
Staff Sgt. Aaron Pearson said that although the journey was long, the company accomplished its mission.
“Our job is to lead the way and find the IEDs — the roadside bombs,” Pearson said.
The 309th had more IED finds than any other task force in Afghanistan for the time they served, according to Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who spoke at the ceremony.
Pearson said this tour was more difficult than his last.
“It’s just good we have everybody home,” Pearson said.
Surrounded by family and friends, all 131 soldiers in the company were welcomed home. Four of the men received the Purple Heart during a ceremony.
Although the troops returned home looking healthy, many of the soldiers have hidden wounds.
“You can’t see it on the outside,” said Spc. Timothy Brown.
Concussions and brain injuries have become increasingly common, and Brown knows their consequences can be damaging.
“We’ve had soldiers lay in bed for weeks over it; they forget part of their life,” he said.
The Army says since 2000, more than 229,000 military personnel have suffered traumatic brain injuries. Just like in the sports world, more research and prevention methods are being examined.
But the company’s legacy doesn’t end in Brainerd. The company earned nearly a hundred Combat Action Badges and over 40 Purple Heart Ribbons.
“It’s not an easy mission, by any means, but it’s what we do,” Pearson said.