Dispatch from Carson: Underhill back home after deployment
By F.T. Norton
Nearly a year of military deployment to the Middle East ended Saturday as Army National Guard Sgt. Gary Underhill fell to his knees at the Air Guard Base in Reno and hugged his little girls.
“I’m so happy,” Underhill wept, clinging tightly to daughters Alyssa, 8, and Olivia, 5.
Alyssa patted her father’s head and brushed the tears from his cheek.
“It’s OK daddy,” she said softly, peeking out from underneath a camouflage uniform cap bearing her father’s name tag.
The Carson City Sheriff’s deputy was one of 150 soldiers with the Nevada National Guard’s 1864th Transportation Company’s who deployed in April 2009 to the Persian Gulf. Prior to that, the unit began redeployment training in November 2008 where it spent weeks away from home at a time preparing for the impending mission.
When he wasn’t escorting convoys across Iraq’s dangerous and unforgiving terrain, Underhill chronicled his unit’s experiences for Nevada Appeal readers through his column “Dispatch from Iraq.”
A final column is in the works.
Underhill’s unit returned stateside March 26 and spent the last week in demobilization and reintegrating in Camp Atterbury, Ind.
On Wednesday the majority of the Las Vegas unit returned home. Underhill was joined by about seven other Northern Nevada soldiers Saturday for the flight back to Reno.
Though he was home on leave in January, the arrival Saturday was different, he said.
“I’m here for real. It’s incredible and that’s an understatement,” he said.
After leaving the Air Base, he and the girls went home and Underhill said he reveled in the littlest of freedoms.
“To walk barefoot across my carpet was a huge deal for me,” he said after being home for a few hours. “I stopped at Starbucks and the people that served my coffee spoke English and there weren’t a thousand people trying to jockey for Internet connection. Right now I can’t even believe I’m here, It hasn’t sunk in yet.”
He said he’ll take a month of leave before returning to patrolling the streets of Carson City on May 1.
“Right now everything is moving in slow motion for me. It’s really difficult to believe I’m actually here,” he said. “I’m just going to take some time and decompress and try to put my life back together.
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