‘The best feeling in the world’

Soldiers return from yearlong deployment


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Sgt. 1st Class Maximo Cabrera holds his 6-month-old daughter, Maxine, for the first time after returning home from a yearlong tour in Afghanistan on Friday, June 1.

STAR PHOTOS BY MIKE NESPER

After returning home from a yearlong deployment to Afghanistan, Sgt. 1st Class Maximo Cabrera got to do something he’s never done — hold his daughter.

Cabrera was reunited with his fiancée, Valeri Camacho, and their 6-month-old baby, Maxine, just before 3 a.m. on Friday, June 1 at Buckner Physical Fitness Center on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

“It feels amazing,” Cabrera said. “There’s no words to describe how I feel.”

Cabrera was part of approximately 45 soldiers from the 716th Explosive Ordinance Detachment, 17th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 2nd Engineering Brigade who were met by friends and family during a brief welcome home ceremony.

Now that he’s home, Cabrera has only one thing on his mind.

“All my leave days will be spent with my baby,” he said.

According to the Army, during the past 12 months, nine EOD teams executed more than 700 missions where they rendered safe 255 improvised explosive devices and 15 vehicle-born IEDs, according to a press release. The unit also responded to 220 potential IEDs, which were not explosive hazards.

In addition to their IED-related missions, the 716th EOD supported 125 named operations, conducted 185 post-blast analyses and discovered 65 enemy caches. The unit removed more than 35,000 pounds of explosives from an area of more than 58,000 square miles, the Army said.

Despite her best effort to block it out, the soldiers’ dangerous job has been on Samantha Stodghill’s mind for the past year.

“You just try not to think about it,” said Stodghill, who’s marrying Sgt. Brandon Pinson on Friday, June 8.

But the absence of her fiancé was a constant reminder to Stodghill that his life was in jeopardy every day overseas.

“It’s always there because they’re not physically with you,” she said. “They’re in a danger zone and you’re not.”

Pinson’s first deployment took its toll on Stodghill.

“It’s been a long year,” she said. “It was hard, but we made it work.”

The soldiers’ early morning arrival didn’t dampen Stodghill’s spirits one bit.

“I’m excited to have him home,” she said. “It’s definitely the best feeling in the world.”

 

Contact Mike Nesper at 694-2727 or mike.nesper@alaskastar.com

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