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