Orlando Army Reserve Soldiers return from Afghanistan
August 6, 2012
ORLANDO, Fla.-- Families, local officials and military leaders gathered to honor the brave Soldiers of 689th Engineer Company during a Welcome Home Warrior Citizen Ceremony here at the David R.Wilson Armed Forces Reserve Center, Aug. 1, 2012.
Lt. Col. Mac Case, commander of 478th Engineer Battalion, 926th Engineer Brigade, 412th Theater Engineer Command, greeted the Soldiers as they disembarked, and later addressed Family members and friends gathered to welcome home their local heroes at the reserve center, all 190 Army Strong combat engineers assigned to 689th Eng. Co.
It was a beautiful ceremony, appropriate to honor our men and women in uniform for their service and sacrifice to a grateful nation. I'm very proud of our Soldiers and what they've accomplished during their deployment, said Case. The 478th 'adopted' and took care of the 689th while the unit was overseas, as its parent battalion, 841st Eng. Bn., is currently deployed to Afghanistan.
The 689th received 17 Purple Heart, 7 Valor Awards, 8 Bronze Star and 90 combat action badges.
The Orlando-based unit deployed to Afghanistan a year ago in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and with a mission to keep routes clear, safe and free of roadside bombs aimed as a threat to coalition forces and local nationals.
Tasked with demining operations and a route clearance mission, the unit deployed to one of the most kinetic areas in the country, yet successfully accomplished all assigned missions and returned home without casualties, something Capt. Kevin Lasagna, commander of 689th Eng. Co., attributed as his greatest accomplishment.
"We were told that we saw more action than any other unit there in the last 4-5 years. I'm very proud of my Soldiers. Everyone stayed focused on getting the job done because we all knew how important this was to the overall mission," said Lasagna, a science teacher at a local high school and a father of two teenage boys.
The West Palm Beach resident added that it wasn't easy to go out every single day, knowing the dangers that they face, but they were neverless motivated to get the job done because a lot of people counted on them for their safety. Everyone from the local population, Afghan soldiers and our military forces relied on us to make sure that the roads are cleared of improvised explosive devices.
Our success at our job enabled local Afghans and our coalition forces to safely maneuver about their daily business, to carry out their own patrol, re-supply and convoy missions throughout the region. With that in mind, it's crucial that we are effective and successful at what we do as combat engineers, as a route clearance unit.
Inspite of all the dangers inherited with this job, Lasagna said his Soldiers were able to accomplish what they needed to do because of their training, competence and dedication to the mission. The 689th cleared 35,000 km of road throughout four battlespaces and provinces and completed over 400 missions during their deployment.
"The most telling part for for me was when a battalion commander of an armor unit said that he won't move their tanks before us. They trusted us to get the job done right, he said.
Lasagna, as with all 689th Eng. Co. Soldiers, is eager to spend quality time with his family in the days ahead. "I know it sounds cliche, but I'm looking forward to taking my kids to Disney World," he said with a huge smile.