Posted: May 20, 2014 4:10 PM by Mihir Bhagat, KOMU 8 Reporter
Updated: May 21, 2014 11:30 PM
MACON - The Missouri National Guard hosted a welcome home ceremony for the 1438th Engineer Company at Macon High School Tuesday. All 125 troops safely returned home.
"That is probably the greatest accomplishment as a company commander and a company as a whole," Captain McClellan H. Gaono-Taiese said. "By the grace of God, I think he brought us all back."
Hundreds of family and friends, including veterans, attended the ceremony and embraced the soldiers afterwards.
"It's an amazing feeling," 1438th Specialist Nicholas Boggs said. "What a feeling to be back with my family and friends. What a great welcoming back home. Shivers on my back still."
The soldiers deployed to Southern Afghanistan on July 12, 2013 and began bridge building in late August. During their time, unit members received a total of 121 awards for their work.
"Those awards are a testament of what we went through and what we accomplished," Captain Gaono-Taiese said. "No amount of awards can say what we did and really put up with out there, but it's good enough."
Gov. Jay Nixon attended the ceremony and said he's proud of the company's efforts.
"It's a mission well-done," Governor Nixon said. "One hundred twenty one medals from this group, and 100 percent of these folks come back home. This is the kind of combat engineers that Missouri is famous for, out in the front, making sure the world is safe."
The soldiers said they benefited from the experience.
"Overall, it's a real eye-opener to see how these people live compared to how we live here," 1438th Specialist William Tetley said. "It's an experience that you would want most people to have, but it's really kind of dangerous for most people to head over there."
"How the different society lives in a third-world country compared to ours," Boggs said. "It was just an amazing and wonderful experience that I'll carry for the rest of my life."
"I learned a lot about the characteristics of the people. Not only my soldiers but the people of Afghanistan. Just learning how to deal with different environments and cultures. It's truly an experience that everyone should experience."
Captain Gaono-Taiese said now that he's back home with his family, he's taking a trip to Disney World.