FORT HOOD, Texas - The 1908th Combat Stress Control Detachment, one of two Army Reserve units to suffer casualties in the Nov. 5, 2009 shooting at Fort Hood returned home on Oct. 16.
The 1908th of Topeka, Kan., returned from a year-long deployment to Iraq to the place where they lost two Soldiers and suffered five wounded in an attack that rattled the Army and shocked the nation.
The Soldiers returned to a small welcome home ceremony hosted by Fort Hood on the evening of Oct. 13. Several of the Soldiers who were wounded in the attack were there to greet them as they got off the bus from the Dallas/Fort Worth airport.
"What I've been wanting to say to them is, 'Welcome home, I love you guys,'" said Spc. James Armstrong, one of the Soldiers who was wounded and unable to deploy with the unit. "They continued on the mission for us."
Although the 1908th lost seven Soldiers, replacements were quickly identified, and the detachment was able to deploy on time. Every Soldier in the unit was given the opportunity to opt out of the deployment, but none chose to do so.
"You all decided to stay. That alone is an incredible story," said Maj. Gen L.P. Chang, Commander, 807th Medical Command, the 1908th's major headquarters.
Sgt. 1st Class Robert Cramer, the detachment first sergeant, wasn't surprised by his Soldiers' choice to drive on.
"I had a lot of young Soldiers that were very strong," said Cramer. "I was actually very happy about it."
The specter hanging over the unit's return was the Article 32 hearing for the alleged shooter, Maj. Nidal Hasan, which was being conducted concurrently at Fort Hood. Several of the wounded Soldiers were at Fort Hood to testify in the hearing. The members of the 1908th, apart from their involvement in the hearing, seemed far more interested in getting home.
"I haven't been following it at all," said Maj. Michael Brand, Commander of the 1908th.
The Soldiers all departed Fort Hood for their homes a mere three days after landing, relieved to be in the U.S. and eager to get on with their lives.
"I'm looking forward to wrapping up my Master's and getting back to work - and start paying down on some debt," said Sgt. Michael Simms. He and his wife will be moving temporarily to Thailand, where they plan to work with aid groups helping Burmese refugees.
Brand sees a bright future for his Soldiers, who now understand adversity and how to pull together as a team. "We have a lot of well-trained, tested young Soldiers now who will be promoted and move up the ranks and be the future leaders," he said.
The 1908th also had the opportunity to link up with some in the Fort Hood community that supported them after the shooting. The Chamber of Commerce of Gatesville, Texas, held a dinner on North Fort Hood in the detachment's honor. Gatesville had unofficially adopted the 1908th after the shooting and gave the members of the detachment a respite at a local ranch that helped the unit grieve and refocus away from the media attention at Fort Hood.
The members of the 1908th will remain assigned to the detachment for a full year as the Army Reserve monitors them and ensures they receive the counseling and services that they need.