Steamboat Springs sends three men to fight in Iraq
Steamboat Springs — The chances that three Steamboat Springs residents would wind up in the same regiment halfway across the continent would seem on the surface to be one in a million.
Well, not exactly.
“Actually it’s about a one in nine chance that we ended up in the same place,” Pfc. Patrick McMahon said.
Added Spc. Tony Haight, a fellow Steamboat Springs High School graduate: “I guess it sure is a small world.”
McMahon, Haight and Sgt. Eric O’Hara are all stationed in Fort Bragg, N.C. Haight graduated from Steamboat Springs High School in 2001. O’Hara is a 2002 graduate, and McMahon graduated in 2003. They see one another at random times.
Now, all share another bond: Their unit, the 1st Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, will be traveling to Iraq for a year within the next couple of days.
“When I signed up to do this I knew this was coming sooner or later,” Haight said. “I am a little bit scared and a little bit excited. But I know we’re pretty well prepared.”
While all three soldiers said they were friends in high school, their time in the military has given them something more than just being acquaintances.
“It’s definitely a much better bond and we’ve become a lot closer,” O’Hara said Sunday from Fort Bragg. “Me and Patrick get together on the weekends and obviously we’re always out training together. Having those guys here definitely means a lot.”
Haight, who got married in May, said while he doesn’t get to hang out with O’Hara and McMahon as much, the bond still runs deep.
“Those guys are great,” he said. “It means a lot to have them here with me.”
All three found out a little more than a week ago that their brigade will be going to Iraq. While the short notice can make it hard, all three said that this is just part of the job.
“For the past six months rumors have been flying around here of when we’d be going,” McMahon said. “In July we thought we were deploying, then we got back from leave and they said we weren’t. Then we found out we were.
“It’s kind of like a mental roller coaster; going, not going, we might be going this week, maybe next month to now you are going.”
The support from the Steamboat Springs community the soldiers deal with the pressures of the military. Whether it was Haight receiving a letter in basic training from the Routt County Republicans, or O’Hara and McMahon receiving an outpouring of phone calls the last couple of days wishing them luck, each said Steamboat is a special place.
“It has been wonderful,” O’Hara said of the support. “There are a lot of good people up there and everybody always sends their love. I was lucky to go to high school there.”
O’Hara did a six-week stint in Iraq when he joined in December 2003. Haight and McMahon will be traveling overseas for the first time in their military careers. O’Hara said he has talked to the other two about what to expect, but said there isn’t much he can say except to remember all of the training.
“We’ve had some conversations about going over there,” O’Hara said. “But I know that Tony and Patrick are ready — all of us are ready.”
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