Chesterton Tribune


713th Engineer Company homecoming today joyful but also sad

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The sappers of the 713th Engineer Company, headquartered in Valparaiso, are returning home today from Kandahar Province, Afghanistan.

But they do so without six of their brothers, killed in the performance of one of the most perilous of military missions: clearing combat and supply routes of explosive ordinance.

So the reunion this morning—at 11:30 a.m. at the Army Aviation Support Facility, Gary/Chicago International Airport—was a joyful one but tinged by sadness too.

Sue Ailes of Porter, future mother-in-law of sapper Trey Sinclair, spoke of the hardship on her family. “It has been a horrible 10 and a half months,” she told the Chesterton Tribune early this morning. “Nothing but worry. Worry every day. And the relief is wonderful. And I only wish all the families could find this joy. It’s an amazing thing to have him come home.”

Sinclair, 25, a correctional officer at the Westville Correctional Facility, operated one of the robots tasked to road-clearing, Ailes said. A high-stress duty, made all the more stressful by the loss of his comrades. “It was very difficult on Trey. They lost six guys in their unit throughout the 10 months they’ve been gone. It’s a very difficult thing they have to face.”

“I feel very blessed,” said Elizabeth Ailes, Sinclair’s finance. “It was a very hard deployment. A lot of good men died. I’m just so very happy and overjoyed that he’s going to come home.”

And for Elizabeth’s three children—for her two sons and for the daughter she and Sinclair have together—the reunion today is going to be a surprise. “They know it’s soon but they don’t know how soon,” she said. “They haven’t a clue. We’re pretty excited to surprise them.”

Suzanne Zimmerman of Chesterton, the mother of sapper Benjamin Morris, is just as thrilled to see her boy again. “I’m really happy,” she said. “My son’s coming home today. I’m so happy, I’m thrilled he’s alive. Because there are a lot of soldiers who aren’t coming back.”

“It’s been a long, long time,” Zimmerman added. “But I’m so proud of him. I couldn’t ask for a more special son. We made signs and we’re all going to the airport and we’re going to yell and smile and cry.”

The Fallen

The six sappers who died in the line of duty:

•Staff Sgt. Jonathan M. Metzger, 32, of Indianapolis.

•Spc. Brian J. Leonhardt, 21, of Merrillville.

•Spc. Robert J. Tauteris Jr., 44, of Hamlet, Ind.

•Spec. Christopher A. Patterson, 20, of Aurora, Ill.

•Spc. Nicholas A. Taylor Jr., 20, of Berne, Ind.

•Spc. Sergio Eduardo Perez, 20, of Crown Point.

Metzger, Leonhardt, Tauteris, and Patterson were killed when their vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb.

Taylor and Perez were killed during a complex attack which included rocket propelled grenade fire and small arms fire.

The 713th

Approximately 100 sappers deployed from the 713th Engineer Company of Indiana National Guard.

In addition to the company’s two platoons, the unit was tasked to command and control two additional active-duty Army platoons which also conducted route clearance, bringing the total of assigned soldiers to more than 150.

The 713th conducted 371 missions and cleared approximately 14,000 miles of routes for Afghan citizens, Afghan security forces, and U.S. forces and international forces. The two attached platoons conducted 360 missions and cleared approximately 17,000 miles of routes.

The 713th, commanded by Capt. Cecil W. Pendleton III of Indianapolis demobilized at Fort Bliss, Texas.

“The 713th will spend the next year focusing on transitioning to their civilian lives,” the Indiana National Guard said in a statement released on Tuesday.





Posted 9/26/2012