NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) - A bittersweet homecoming in Newport News -- an Army company just returned to Fort Eustis from Afghanistan, but without three of its soldiers.
At Fort Eustis Monday night, 101 soldiers from the 359th Inland Cargo Transfer Company, 10th Transportation Battalion, 7th Sustainment Brigade returned from supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
The unit just finished a nine-month deployment, during which many of the soldiers were responsible for ensuring safe transport of personnel and equipment and serving as a Convoy Escort Team.
"Feels amazing to see all my family, my wife, my newborn ... first time I get to meet him," said Sgt. Luis Flores, a returning soldier.
While in Afghanistan, the unit lost three soldiers in the line of duty: Staff Sergeant Justin Johnson died in June, and Sergeant Caryn Nouv and Staff Sergeant Eric Lawson were killed a month later.
During a ceremony at 9 p.m. Monday, Captain Neil Stevenson, the unit's commander, spoke with WAVY.com about the three heroes who died for their country.
"It was the hardest thing imaginable. It's something we train for and we know it's a possibility, but it doesn't make it easier to handle," he said.
Those reuniting with family and friends expressed an feeling overwhelmed with the context of the deployment and its return.
"I couldn't think of anything other than going to him and grabbing him," said Paula Hynick, the wife of a solider returning from his third tour. "I was just overwhelmed because of all the stuff we went through during this deployment."
In total, the group received 17 Purple Hearts, five Combat Badges for enemy fire and 13 Bronze Stars.
A company has been hired to complete the repairs to the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge on the Outer Banks, but how long those repairs will take remains unknown.
Drivers traveling between Hatteras Island and the mainland were forced to use an emergency ferry Wednesday, following the sudden closure of the Bonner Bridge Tuesday.
State officials say construction on a new Bonner Bridge has been delayed for years because of a legal battle with an environmental group.