BISMARCK, N.D. — Nearly 100 North Dakota National Guard soldiers have returned to the U.S. after about a year in Afghanistan during which they lost two members of their company to a roadside bomb.
The soldiers with the 818th Engineer Company arrived at Fort Bliss, Texas, on Tuesday night. They will go through the demobilization process there before returning to North Dakota, likely sometime next week.
The 818th is based in Williston with a detachment in Hazen. The soldiers served as combat engineers in Afghanistan, clearing improvised explosive devices from routes used by other soldiers.
Two 818th soldiers died in the line of duty on Dec. 3 — Sgt. 1st Class Darren Linde, 41, of Devils Lake, and Spc. Tyler Orgaard, 20, of Bismarck. A third soldier, Spc. Ian Placek, 23, of Bismarck, was wounded. He recently returned to Bismarck to continue his recovery, according to the Guard.
"This is a great day as we welcome the members of the 818th Engineer Company back to the country they have so honorably and courageously served this past year," Gov. Jack Dalrymple said in a statement. "They did an outstanding job while deployed to Afghanistan, and we are grateful for their distinguished service. Sadly, two of the unit's members did not return home with them. We will never forget (them) and their families for the ultimate sacrifice they have made on our behalf."
Maj. Gen. David Sprynczynatyk, commander of the state Guard, traveled to Texas to welcome home the soldiers.
"I know today comes with mixed emotions," he told them. "You're finally back in the United States and soon will be reunited with your friends and family. At the same time, I know the absence of two of your brothers is still very much felt. Just as you did on your missions, continue to carry their memory and legacy with you as you return home. Honor their service and sacrifice with how you continue to live."