Families and friends will meet at Los Alamitos Army Airfield Wednesday morning to celebrate the return of more than 130 California National Guard soldiers from a yearlong tour in Afghanistan – a tour that also saw the death of one of their own.
For many in the 756th Transportation Company, the homecoming will be bittersweet -- a suicide bomber killed Sgt. Carlo F. Eugenio shortly after the company deployed.
Eugenio, who deployed with the unit in August 2011, was killed three months after arriving in the country when a suicide vehicle rigged with explosives detonated by his truck in Kabul.
The Rancho Cucamonga resident's body arrived in California in November.
Eugenio was the first California National Guard soldier killed as a direct result of enemy action in Afghanistan and is the fourth state national guard member to die in Afghanistan since 9/11, according to a California National spokesman.
Members of the 756th will arrive at the Joint Forces Training Base on two flights, one at 9 a.m. and one at 9:45 a.m. Members of the community are invited to attend the homecoming to support the troops and their families.
For soldiers, losing someone in combat is always rough, said Sgt. 1st Class Jessica Inigo, a spokeswoman for the CNG.
“They’re just normal humans like everybody, “Inigo said. “They wish that they could have always come back home together.”
Inigo adds that while the troops will honor Eugenio, Wednesday's event is more about celebrating the return of 130 soldiers.
A number of other soldiers from the 170-person unit have already either been reassigned or redeployed, Inigo said.
During their yearlong tour, the 756th moved supplies, personnel and equipment through Afghanistan.
They helped more than 420 convoys, escorted 952 trucks and transported more than 4,000 pieces of cargo and 11,500 people through the Kabul region.
More than 2,900 California National Soldiers have deployed in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan since 9/11.
According to Inigo, 30 California National Guard soldiers have died in Afghanistan and Iraq since 9/11.