Transportation Company returns home from Afghanistan

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AUGUSTA — For 173 Maine soldiers, Tuesday's formation at the front of the Augusta Armory was another rock-star moment.

Troops return
Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Asher Pond, 2 of Farmington, checks out the American flag patch on his father's shoulder. The elder Toby Pond, along with his brother Travis and other members of the 1136th Transportation Company, returned to the Augusta National Guard Armory on Tuesday and were reunited with loved ones. The company shipped out last March to Afghanistan, where it provided security for bases and convoys against Taliban and al-Qaida forces.

Troops return
Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Cammie Harriman looks over a brochure as she waits for her husband to arrive at the Augusta Armory on Tuesday morning. Sgt Holton Harriman is a member of the 1136th Transportation Company which shipped out last March to Afghanistan and returned Tuesday.

Troops return
Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Sarah Rodier, a member of the 1136th Transportation Company, reunites with her dog, Dakota, a 5-year-old German shepherd, after returning to Maine on Tuesday morning after a tour in Afghanistan.

The crowd behind the rope line whooped and hollered when the soldiers walked in. Moms stood on tiptoes. Dads waved. Kids held signs aloft, stretching to be seen by the figures in the tan battle uniforms.

Asher Pond, 2, and Carson Pond, 5 months, greeted their father with matching T-shirts that read: "My Daddy, My Soldier, My Hero."

"This was nothing like my last deployment," Staff Sgt. Toby Pond of Farmington said. In 2003, when he served in Kuwait, the National Guard soldier was unmarried without kids. This time, days were punctuated by Skype calls. His year in Afghanistan was interrupted by Carson's birth.

On Tuesday, he held both boys close.

"I can't describe it," he said. He flipped Asher in the air, igniting a series of smiles and giggles. "I don't know what to say."

For the past year, the men and women of the 1136th Transportation Company have been working as guards for two of the most strategically important headquarters in Afghanistan: the New Kabul Compound and Camp Eggers. Eggers houses NATO training forces. New Kabul houses U.S. Forces Command, the headquarters led by Gen. David Petraeus.

For many soldiers and their families, it marked the second yearlong deployment in the past decade.

"The first time, I was a basket case," Steven Dee Sr. of New Gloucester said. His son, Steven Dee Jr., served in Iraq with the 133rd Engineer Battalion in 2004 and 2005. This time, parents and son knew what to expect.

He came home safe before, they thought. He'll do it again.

"The last time was a parents' nightmare," Steven Jr.'s mother, Donna Dee, said. In the end, as always, she learned to trust in God. "We can just pray."

As they prepared for Steven's return, they readied his car and planned for a family get-together on the weekend.

"Tonight, he wants to be with his friends," Donna Dee said, beaming after a hug with her son.

The homecoming wasn't as emotional as it was in 2005 when he came home from Iraq.

"I've done it all before," he said, smiling at his family, which included his brother, Travis, his sister, Heather, his 10-year-old nephew, Dillon, and his great-grandmother, Mary Mollerberg, who will turn 100 this year.

"I'm going to relax," he said. "I'll take time to recuperate."

Other folks planned trips or events aimed at reconnecting with family. One group of relatives arrived at the ceremony with a balloon tied to a 12-pack of Miller Lite. Some talked of heading out on snowmobiles before the snow melted. 

Livermore Falls native Jim LeBlanc planned a trip to Tennessee with his wife, Alice, and their children, Julie, 2, and Jacob, almost 1.

Though she knew what to expect, Alice LeBlanc said she was worn out by this deployment. Besides the care of the children, there were other needs.

"Murphy's Law kicks in," she said as she waited for her husband's bus to arrive. "There was a broken-down washing machine and that sort of thing." Plumbing in their Buxton home clogged. And the winter seemed unrelenting.

"We just want him home," she said.

dhartill@sunjournal.com

Troops return
Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Friends and relatives cheer as members of the 1136th Transportation Company return from Afghanistan at the Augusta Armory on Tuesday. The soldiers shipped out last March to Afghanistan, where they provided security for bases and convoys against Taliban and al-Qaida forces.

Troops return
Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Major John W. Libby, adjutant general of Maine, holds 5-month-old Carson Pond whose father, Staff Sgt. Toby Pond, holds 2-year-old Asher. Pond's sons met him at the National Guard Armory in Augusta on Tuesday morning when he returned from Afghanistan. Pond, of Farmington, and his brother, Travis, are members of the 1136th Transportation Company which shipped out last March. The company provided security for bases and convoys against Taliban and al-Qaida forces.

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Comments

 's picture

Thank you and welcome home.

Thank you and welcome home.

 's picture

Soldiers

God Bless them...

 's picture

Soldiers

God Bless them...

 's picture

Welcome Home

To the Pond Boys and all the others! Your family is grateful you are here at last!

ERNEST LABBE's picture

Thank You

Welcome home everyone in the 1136TH. Thank you for serving.

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