White Sands Missile Range, N.M.--Soldiers from the 573rd
Clearance Company returned home to a gymnasium packed with excited screams
from anxious friends and family members Monday. The company, which is
made up of 126 Soldiers, returned from a nine month deployment to
Afghanistan on a route clearance mission.
Friends and family members arrived from all over the world to greet their
Soldiers as early as Friday. The Soldiers were scheduled to return on
Saturday, April 6, but due to unforeseen circumstances, had to change their
arrival to early this morning. The delay left several anxious loved ones to
wait almost two additional days for their Soldier.
"He always tells me I'm shy and I pull back when he gives me affection, but
this time I won't," said Vanessa Sanders, mother of 573rd Clearance Co.
Soldier Spc. Gabriel Sanders. "I'm going to try not to cry and hug him and
Sanders, like many family members, traveled a great distance from Murietta,
Calif., to see her son for the first time in a little less than a year.
This is her son's second deployment with the 573rd Clearance Co. which is
the total number of deployments the company has had since their arrival at
WSMR. The patriotism could be felt around the room when the recording of the
"Star Spangled Banner" malfunctioned during the ceremony and friends and
family began to sing the song with a strong emphasis when they reached the
lyrics, "the land of the free."
The 573rd Clearance Company is one of five that is attached to the 2nd
Engineer Battalion. Currently, two additional companies are deployed
overseas and are scheduled to return later this year. 2nd Engineer
Battalion Commander, Lt. Col. Andre Balyoz spoke at the Soldier's ceremony
to briefly thank them for a job well done and mission complete. Balyoz said
the company was able to find 60 improvised explosive devices and had an 85
percent clearance success rate when the normal average is 65 percent.
"Because of their hard work, countless American Soldiers, Soldiers of other
nations, and local Afghan civilians were able to travel safely," Balyoz
White Sands Missile Range Commander, Brig. Gen. Gwen Bingham also spoke at
the ceremony to greet the Soldiers and thank them for their service. Bingham
reminded the audience and Soldiers that there was one Soldier who was not
physically present but who she knew was present in spirit. Sgt. Tristan
Wade, of the 573rd Clearance Co., died March 22 when enemy forces attacked
his unit with an improvised explosive device. Wade, 23, left behind a wife
and a daughter.
"We vow to never forget his service, his sacrifice, and his family," Bingham
said. "We are mighty, mighty glad that each and every one of you are back home.
Our nation owes you a debt of gratitude" she added.
The Soldiers will receive about a month of leave to spend with their family,
friends and loved ones before returning to duty.