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Marines make emotional return to Camp Williams

Published: Sunday, May 30 2010 12:00 a.m. MDT

Staff Sgt. Mike Johnson, right, returning from his third deployment, hugs his son Zanio, 4, as his wife Stophiann and daughter Izabelle, 2, wait at left as Marines with Company C, 4th LAR Battalion return home from a seven month deployment to Afghanistan at Camp Williams in Riverton, Utah on Saturday, May 29, 2010.

T.J. Kirkpatrick, Deseret News

BLUFFDALE — There were hugs, kisses and tears as family and friends welcomed home 105 Marines of Charlie Company of the 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion on Saturday morning.

But the reunion at Camp Williams, where the company is based, was bittersweet because of the two marines who didn't return.

The first week in March, Lance Cpls. Carlos A. Aragon and Nigel Olsen were killed in the volatile Helmand province in Afghanistan in separate attacks. Both were graduates of Mountain View High School in Orem.

Saturday morning, Kim Olsen, Nigel Olsen's mother, accepted hugs and condolences from many of the Marines as the tears flowed freely.

"I am really excited to have these guys come home," she said. "They are all my children now. If I can't hug my son, I am going to hug all the others."

Charlie Company was returning after a seven-month deployment in Afghanistan.

Cpl. David Talbot, who had been sent home after being injured by an improvised explosive device two days after Aragon was killed, was happy to see the rest of the company return.

"I have been waiting for this since I came here," Talbot said. "I am excited to be going home."

The company is made up of Marines from Utah, Idaho, Colorado and Nevada, and Afghanistan was the second deployment for the reserve unit. The first was to Iraq. Current plans are for the company to demobilize and return to reserve training.

Talbot said the loss of the two Marines helped to bring the company together.

"I think it bonded and united us," he said. "It hit us all pretty hard when Aragon passed away. It made us realize what was really going on."

Cpl. David Mayhew, of West Valley City, was sent home in December after a gun turret fell on him, injuring his back. He also was happy to welcome home his comrades.

"I wish I could have stayed," Mayhew said. "This is the best unit I've ever been with."

Family members of Marines agreed that the deaths of Aragon and Olsen brought the realities of the war home.

"It made you a lot more aware of what was going on," said Laura Thornock, of Sandy. "It makes you a lot more anxious for the soldier. This is the end of a lot of waiting and waiting.

She was excited to introduce her husband, Sgt. J.D. Thornock, to his 5-month-old daughter, Macy, who was born while her father was deployed. Also on hand was another daughter, Kennedy, who had been born when while her father was serving in Iraq 21/2 years ago.

"I'm feeling really good to be home," J.D. Thornock said, holding both his daughters. "It's a relief that we can be a family again."

Members of the Carlos Aragon family didn't come to Camp Williams on Saturday, but Aragon's stepfather, Brad Halliday, said family members would attend a Memorial Day barbecue Monday in Orem to honor the two fallen soldiers and raise money for the Enduring Freedom Scholarship Fund established at Mountain View High School.

"We are very close with Nigel's family, but I just didn't feel I could handle this," Halliday said. "But I want to salute every one of those guys. I'm glad they are home, and I'm glad they were friend with my son."

Memorial Day barbecue

When: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday

Where: Orem City Center Park, 300 E. Center

What: Performers will include Kurt Bestor, Shaun Barrows and Drew Reese; speakers will include Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, GOP U.S. Senate candidates Tim Bridgewater and Mike Lee, and Rep. Carl Wimmer, R-Herriman.

Why: Proceeds will go to the Mountain View High School Enduring Freedom Scholarship Fund, honoring Lance Cpls. Carlos Aragon and Nigel Olsen. Visit www.carlosnigelfund.com.

e-mail: mhaddock@desnews.com

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