Tragic homecoming |

Tragic homecoming

Army specialist mourning friend's death

Michelle Balleck

MAYBELL — Michael Cammer likes being home, but wishes the leave from his Army post in Afghanistan were not for a friend’s death.

The Army specialist is a 2003 Moffat County High School graduate stationed since March at an Air Force base in Kandhar, where he is an Apache helicopter mechanic.

Cammer planned a trip home for the end of this month. His leave was moved up when he received word Natasha Gutierrez of Meeker, a friend and former girlfriend, died in a car accident Oct. 8. She is the niece of high school wrestling coach Roman Gutierrez.

“Being halfway around the world and hearing something like that, you don’t know what to think,” Cammer said. “At first I was stunned. I didn’t want to believe it.”

He came home, but could not do so in time for the funeral. Still, he wanted to see Gutierrez’s parents and do what he could for the family.

Cammer and Gutierrez dated before, and stayed friends while he continued to serve overseas at bases in Germany and Afghanistan. The two have stayed in touch through e-mail and phone calls.

Cammer said amenities in Afghanistan are pretty similar to those in the United States. The Internet is a bit slow, and the soda cans have the “old style” pop-tops, but he said he’s pretty content there.

He watches videos, plays video games and surfs the Web. On Friday nights, the dining hall serves steak and lobster. It may not be the best lobster, but it’s still lobster, he said.

On base, there is a Burger King, Subway and Pizza Hut. Often, the restaurants operate out of trailers and the food tastes different than at home, but having those options was nice, he said. “You can get really fat over there if you don’t watch it,” he said.

He has not tried any Afghani food, though, because of the health risks. But he has interacted with people from a number of different countries while working at the gate.

“Egyptians, Pakistanis, Ind–ians,” he said. “Pretty much all the countries around us come over there to work.”

Cammer said he missed the peace and quiet of his Maybell home and homemade cookies. He loves getting care packages with baked goods.

“It’s nice to get mail,” he said. “It feels like Christmas.”

Something else he was eager to do when he got home was go hunting. So he spent a week at Steamboat Lake with his dad. Saturday he said he still hoped to fill his license before he left Tuesday.

Cammer said he was not thrilled to go back to Afghanistan, where he sleeps in a tight space with three roommates and innumerable ants. He said he never knows what kind of creature he’ll come across next.

“There’s all sorts of weird bugs over there,” he said. “Bugs I’ve never seen before.”

But he said his deployment is well worth the time and annoyances.

“It’s more of a humanitarian deal,” Cammer said. “They need it. Those people are way behind the times.”

His deployment is scheduled to last through March 2006 and his Army enlistment continues through August 2009. He said he did not intend to re-enlist, and didn’t expect the military missions in Iraq and Afghanistan to end anytime soon.

“We’ll be there at least until they get their feet under them again,” he said.

Michelle Perry can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 209, or

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