POSTED: Wednesday, September 11, 2013 - 9:20pm
UPDATED: Thursday, September 12, 2013 - 5:57pm
Fort Bliss (U.S. Army) — When the Soldiers of Company A, 3rd Battalion, 41st Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, stepped off the plane they expected to see friends and family waiting to greet them, but it was a surprise for many of them to see a few of their battle buddies on the flight line. It was even more of a surprise to see one of those comrades standing.
Sgts. Anthony Ayers and Adam Hartswick, and Staff Sgt. Kevin Gremillion were injured in Afghanistan by an improvised explosive device May 14, in the same blast that killed three other 3rd Bn., 41st Inf. Regt. Soldiers: Spcs. Cody Towse, William Gilbert and Mitchell Daehling.
Sgt. Ayers lost his right eye and Sgt. Hartswick lost both legs. The two returned to Fort Bliss specifically for their unit’s welcome home ceremony.
“That was my goal. It was to be standing by the time the rest of the guys came back,” said Hartswick. It was a goal he succeeded in achieving. Hartswick and Ayers stood on the flight line and hugged or shook the hand of every Soldier he’d been deployed with.
“I just wanted to see all the guys, let them know that they did a good job that day,” said Ayers. “Every one of those guys responded exactly the way they should have when it (the roadside bomb) happened, and I’m proud of them.”
As the returning Soldiers waited for everyone to finish turning in equipment and signing in, Ayers and Hartswick stayed in the area, talking to their friends and battle buddies. They were joined by Monica Gilbert, widow of Spc. Gilbert, and their four-month-old daughter, Mikayla, who was only a few days old at her father’s memorial service.
Several members of Gilbert’s platoon took turns holding Mikayla as she slept, unaware of the high regard in which these warfighters held her father.
Ayers and Hartswick plan to stay in El Paso and attend a few more welcome home ceremonies before returning to Brooke Army Medical Center, Fort Sam Houston, Texas, and Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, Md., respectively.