Surprise For Returning Soldier

280 soldiers returned to Fort Carson Thursday. For one in the group, the homecoming was made sweeter by a surprise 15 months in the making.

A seat in the bleachers of Fort Carson’s Special Event Center is a wish granted for family of Ft. Carson soldiers. A wait of more than a year is over for all, including Vicki Russell.

"This is the longest and hardest so far," Russell said.

Standing in the gym means her husband Andrew is home after his third deployment to Iraq.

Andrew's wish: to hit the back country with his family by re-building an ’85 Toyota 4Runner that didn't look like much when he left.

Homecomings are magical in the Mountain Post’s room of reunion. After 15 months, SGT Andrew Russell was back in the arms of his family Thursday.

"It's always a long deployment!" he said.

Moments later, outside, he was reunited with his truck, surrounded by friends and cheers of welcome.

"He's probably the best friend I have out here we were in the Army together," said Matt Thompson.

Thompson is why it pays off to be best friends with a mechanic: with parts donated from a list of local businesses, he restored the 4Runner in secret to road-ready status, something Russell thought he'd never see.

Russell has a daughter with cystic fibrosis, which naturally took priority over his attempts at a re-build.

"He was wanting to sell it to spend more time with his family," Thompson said.

Russell can now spend that time with his family in his favorite way, free of charge.

"This is the most incredible thing that's ever happened to me in my 28 years of life,” Russell said.

The truck may be incredible to Andrew, but it was simply a labor of love to his friends who only wanted to grant Andrew's wish of a gift of freedom, for fighting for theirs.

"Hopefully he'll be happy with it!" Thompson said.


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  • by Pat & Bob Stockner Location: Naperville, IL on Feb 14, 2009 at 02:16 PM
    Wonderful coverage of soldiers returning to Fort Carson ... such happy and relieved families...SGT Andrew Russell is our grandson. Bless Matt Thompson and all of the businessmen and friends who contributed to help Matt complete this gift of love to Andrew. Their kindness will long be remembered.
  • by Mike Location: Security on Feb 14, 2009 at 09:13 AM
    I think everybody that was involved with that truck deserves a big ADDABOY the truck looks awsome! Job well done for such a good reason,and I would like to thank all the military for doing what they do!!! I cant wait for all my family members who serve in Iraq & Afghanistan to return home safely.
  • by Amy Hulme Location: Vienna, WV on Feb 13, 2009 at 05:12 PM
    I would like to thank Matt Thompson and all the other mechanics for all the hard work to create that fantastic truck. I would also like to thank those who donated to the project. Thank you Vicki for making my son's dream come true. Love, Momma
  • by Maria Reyes Location: Colorado Spring on Feb 13, 2009 at 03:23 PM
    I would like to buy the vidio of Ft Carson soliders home today, my son was one of those soldiers home
  • by MATT THOMPSON Location: GROFFS AUTO on Feb 13, 2009 at 08:04 AM
    THANKS FOR EVERYTHING YOU DID A GREAT JOB. LET ME KNOW IF ANY ONE ELSE IS GOING TO AIR SO I CAN LET BIUSNESES KNOW WE GOT THERE NAME OUT THANKS AGAIN. MATT THOMPSON
  • by Vicki Location: Fountain, Colorado on Feb 12, 2009 at 10:21 PM
    I just want to make sure that we thank all the businesses and individuals that have donated to help this project get finished, we really appreciate it!!!! Thank you!!!
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