We, the media, lined up seven cars deep and were escorted onto Fort Carson. I was the third car just behind the KRDO news truck. Our reporter Tom Roeder was the first car. We were heading to one of the most emotional events we cover these days at The Gazette.
The homecoming of soldiers from the war in Iraq.
I carried in two camera bodies, a waist pack, a 300 mm lens and a audio recorder. I was planning on doing an audio slideshow.
I was in over my head.
We got in to the Special Events Center with about eight minutes to spare before the soldiers of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team were to arrive in the extremely dark building. I was going to attempt to make an audio slideshow of the event with sound bites, a few interviews and just the general chaos. I have photographed these homecomings before so I knew, for the most part, what to expect. Well just short of getting everything set up, the soldiers began arriving to the roar of elated family members. I mean roared.
It caught me off guard.
I tried to shoot and do audio at the same time. Things were moving too fast to do both. Something had to give. I put down the recorder and started firing away. In five minutes it was all over. Soldiers and families reunited in hugs, tears and kisses. It's easy to get caught up in the emotion. When those soldiers came through the doors even I got a little choked up. I had a lump in my throat.
My father went to Thailand and Vietnam in the 1970s during the Vietnam War and I remember when he came home. I was a tot but I remember. My mother and my two sisters picked him up from the airport and there was no mass greeting. No music over the loudspeakers. No cloud of smoke to make their entry dramatic. No welcome home signs. It was subdued and everyone went about their business in the airport that day. It was the winding years of the Vietnam War and not too many people cared at that point.
I thought about those moments as hundreds of family members reunited.
This unit lost 15 members and saw some of the fiercest combat of the whole Iraq campaign. They fought in Baghdad, Sadr City and Mosul. It must of been brutal. They looked elated and exhausted. But they were home.
I was bummed I couldn't pull off the slideshow but that's how it goes sometimes. Things happen too fast and you have adjust quickly or you'll miss everything. I nearly did.