After deployment and TV appearances, soldier coming home

Keith Fiscus had limited opportunities to see his son, Sgt. Kyle Fiscus, during his deployment in Afghanistan.

The Fiscuses had traveled to Anchorage, Alaska, twice to visit Kyle: once for a Thanksgiving several years ago and again before his nine-month stint overseas.

The Huntington Beach family was also able to see him in an unusual way. He was one of the soldiers on the Discovery Channel series "Heroes of Hell's Highway" this past December.

In the program, Sgt. Kyle Fiscus and his unit had the task of clearing routes for other armed forces and the Afghan public, where the roads they surveyed contained improvised explosive devices, or IEDs.

"As a medic to be on every single mission, you wake up every morning and get your trucks ready," he said. "It was my job as medic to go through every truck and make sure that everyone's medical bags are stocked up as much as possible, make sure my own equipment is ready to go."

After months of clearing Afghan roads of IEDs, Kyle Fiscus, 22, returned stateside on March 14 to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, his home station in Anchorage.

"It's still a little surreal. It's almost kind of hard to believe that nine months seemed to have come and gone so quickly," he said. "At this point, it seemed like it went by in a blink of an eye, but there's so much traveling involved — getting out to that point and then leaving that point."

His time on TV was somewhat bittersweet. His family had to watch him along with the 23rd Combat Engineers face the daunting task of clearing roads with IEDs, but it was also a chance for the Fiscuses to see their son.

"It was nice because it was actually one of the first times we were able to see him and his face," Keith Fiscus said. "We didn't have a lot of communication with him. It was hard for mom to watch, but that's all part of being a mom."

Having been in the Army himself, Keith Fiscus was proud to see his son accomplish so much during his deployment.

"He was promoted to sergeant while he was gone, has shown incredible leadership skills and had a fairly critical mission out there," he said. "I was proud of him for that, even though he said it was pretty boring. But all they did every day was drive down there and clear the roads. I think they were hit by about four or five IEDs while they were out there, but they all came home with no injuries."

As a medic in this situation, Kyle Fiscus said it can be nerve-racking to see a truck get hit by an IED and waiting for the personnel in that vehicle to radio back.

"You always have to think that the worst thing happened until you actually get to talk to them and find out that they're good to go," he said. "Once I get them out of the truck, I can do my own assessments on them and determine whether they can stay or if they have to go."

Keith Fiscus wanted his son to finish his education at Chico State, where Kyle was a kinesiology major, but Keith said his son had an itch to enlist.

"I wanted him to finish college like any parent, but he had this gnawing need for some sense of adventure, to be a part of something bigger," Keith said. "Of course, I tried to talk him out of it. I wanted him to get his degree, but after a while I just supported him. We went to the recruiter together, made sure he didn't get the runaround."

Kyle Fiscus will be in Anchorage for a few weeks to catch up on work and once that's done, he said he looks forward to coming back home to Huntington Beach.

"I have to work for a few weeks, but it'll be nice to get back home to California," he said. "I'll take about a 30-day's leave and then it's back to the daily grind."

Kyle Fiscus said he takes advantage of the small things some people take for granted.

"It's a bigger sense of freedom, in terms of having the ability to change clothes and take a little bit of time off," he said. "It's definitely a big relief."

Twitter: @acocarpio

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