Spc. Christopher Anderson flew across the country Friday morning thinking he'd surprise the infantrymen he last saw in southern Afghanistan seven months ago when he lost a leg to an enemy mine. He figured he'd sneak up on them at their Joint Base Lewis-McChord headquarters.
Instead, Anderson found more than 40 of his fellow soldiers from the 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division waiting for him at Sea-Tac International Airport.
"It's been a blessing. I'm glad to see they made it back," Anderson, 22, said after the reunion.
Anderson is in town for just a few days. It's his first trip to Lewis-McChord since the Army sent him to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., for long-term rehabilitation.
His wife, Spc. Jasmine Hamer, engineered the surprise reunion over the past few weeks, reaching out to soldiers in his unit but encouraging them to keep it quiet.
Hamer, 24, knew plenty of them. She served in Afghanistan as part of a support unit attached to Anderson's infantry battalion.
Still, even she did not expect to see so many friendly faces when she and her husband walked down an escalator and into a Sea-Tac USO lounge Friday.
Anderson's battalion commander, Lt. Col. Gregory Harkins, made sure the troops could meet their wounded companion, Hamer said.
"It was exciting to see (Anderson's) facial expression when they got there," Hamer said. "He was in shock."
Anderson grew up in Pittsburgh and joined the Army two years ago. He was serving on his first deployment.
His Stryker brigade unit, the 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, fought in a dangerous part of Kandahar province. It lost four soldiers, and a few others were sent home with serious injuries. He's proud of what they accomplished.
"My unit went in there and did what they were supposed to do," he said. "They went in there and dominated the areas they were supposed to."
Anderson said he received a prosthetic leg about four months ago. He said he's making progress learning to walk, and he looks forward to running again one day.
He and Hamer were dating at the start of their deployment last spring. They talked about getting married but figured they'd put it off until the mission ended.
Hamer did not know about Anderson's injury when he was hurt June 12. She found out about his wounds when she called his mother.
Because they weren't married, Hamer could not leave her assignment in Kandahar to care for him at Walter Reed.
"It kind of like tore me up because I knew that I wanted to be there, and he needed me there," she said.
They found a way to get married through a proxy service in September. Soon after, Hamer managed to join her new husband at Walter Reed.
She didn't tell him she was leaving Afghanistan.
"I surprised him," she said. "He didn't even know I was coming, so I'm just full of surprises."