637th Chemical Company returns home from deployment
Story by Staff Sgt. George B. Davis, Ohio National Guard Public Affairs
CLAYTON , Ohio (08/11/19)
Families, friends and community members waited together outside Northmont High School on a sunny August day. They held signs and were dressed patriotically, like it was the Fourth of July — red, white and blue outfits mixed with others wearing military camouflage.
The Patriot Guard Riders, many of whom are veterans themselves, gunned the engines of their flag-adorned motorcycles as they rounded the corner to the school. As is their custom, the riders escorted three buses that transported the 150 Soldiers of the Ohio National Guard’s 637th Chemical Company for the last leg of the unit’s journey home. The crowd surged to the sidewalk, the Soldiers stepped off the buses, and the reunions began.
“It was probably one of the greatest feelings of my life,” said Sgt. Craig William Bengel, a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosives (CRBRNE) noncommissioned officer with the 638th. “My daughter was only 6 weeks old when I left and to return now and see her almost walking is awesome. To see her on FaceTime is one thing. To see her in real life just means so much more.”
The Soldiers of the 637th Chemical Company greeted their family and friends Aug. 11 as they returned from a nearly yearlong deployment to the Middle East in support of Operation Spartan Shield. The unit’s mission was to serve as the chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) defense response force for the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility.
“We all know that freedom isn’t free and the 637th paid that price,” said Col. Daniel Shank, Ohio assistant adjutant general for Army, during the unit’s welcome home ceremony that followed the Soldiers’ arrival. “The 637th sacrificed family gatherings, being at graduations and celebrating holidays with the family. We had Soldiers here whose babies were born while they were gone and they missed that whole first year. They shouldered that burden.”
But sacrifices were not only made by the Soldiers of the unit — they were made by the children who grew up without one of their parents for nearly a year; the spouse or significant other who managed the household while they were gone; grandparents, friends and employers who stepped in to help.
“I want to thank the families for their hard work, dedication and prayers during this deployment,” said Capt. Robert Yarnell, commander of the 637th. “Whether it was the thousands of care packages before Christmas or the many support events hosted by the family readiness group back at home. Thank you for being there for our Soldiers.”
The community gathered in Clayton to catch that first magical glimpse of heroes arriving home. But the honor of service, and the pride that comes from it, belonged to all those present as the 637th was welcomed home.