Colorado: Morale improving at Fort Carson after 8 deaths
Associated Press Writer
FORT CARSON, Colorado – The Pentagon announcement Wednesday confirmed their worst fears – the eight American soldiers killed in a bloody weekend attack in Afghanistan were all from a single Fort Carson unit. But commanders here insisted that morale on the sprawling Army base is rebounding.
“They were attacked, the unit fought bravely, and in the end, they won the day,” said Maj. Daniel Chandler, the rear detachment commander for the brigade. “The brave soldiers that we lost and all of the comrades that were left there, there were a lot of heroes on that day,” he said.
Hundreds of insurgents armed with automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades attacked the soldiers at two U.S. outposts in Nuristan province Saturday, causing one of the highest U.S. death tolls in Afghanistan in a single battle in more than a year.
The Defense Department had already said that at least some of the eight soldiers killed were from the Colorado Springs-area base.
Wednesday’s announcement that all were from a Fort Carson brigade that has seen some of the fiercest fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan came with their names: Staff Sgt. Vernon W. Martin, 25 of Savannah, Ga.; Sgt. Justin T. Gallegos, 27, of Tucson, Ariz.; Sgt. Joshua M. Hardt, 24, of Applegate, Calif.; Sgt. Joshua J. Kirk, 30, of South Portland, Maine; Sgt. Michael P. Scusa, 22, of Villas, N.J.; Spc. Christopher T. Griffin, 24, of Kincheloe, Mich.; Spc. Stephan L. Mace, 21, of Lovettsville, Va.; and Pfc. Kevin C. Thomson, 22, of Reno, Nev.
Fort Carson commanders offered their condolences to the soldiers’ families and said that support teams have contacted them. The commanders also said that the families of four of the victims were living in Colorado Springs at the time of the deaths but officials weren’t sure if they were still in Colorado.
Corie Weathers, whose husband, Matt, is a chaplain in Afghanistan with the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, said her husband has told her that since the battle, “They have had moments of laughter to the point of tears in the midst of their grieving.”
Weathers said her husband told her: “We are taking a moment to pause and hug each other over the loss of our brothers. However, we will be ready for the next mission at hand.”
Lt. Col. Steve Wollman, a spokesman for the 4th Infantry Division, said about 3,500 troops from the brigade are in Afghanistan.
Since 2003, more than 12,000 troops from Fort Carson have been deployed to Iraq, where 255 have been killed.
Also Wednesday, military officials said that a ninth Fort Carson soldier had died in Afghanistan over the weekend but in a separate attack. With the death of 23-year-old Spc. Kevin O. Hill, of Brooklyn, N.Y., on Sunday, the death toll for Fort Carson soldiers in Afghanistan rose to 24.