Family and friends welcome the 135th Military History Detachment home

A 4-member Missouri National Guard unit that documented efforts in Afghanistan has returned home.

“We’d go out with the units, embed with the units. Whatever mission they do we do. We’ve been on dismounted patrols; we’ve been on infantry outside the wire. We’ve been on route clearance missions. We’ve been on bridge reconstruction team missions, agriculture development missions. We embed with the units, we record what they do, interview their soldiers; get the stories their soldiers have. Then we go back through and gather all the data for the engagements, for all the battles. We put together reports to make sure their contribution is remembered forever,” said Major Donald Lathan of the 135th Military History Detachment.

He says they weren’t just armed with cameras.

“Oh no, we were armed, two weapons, rifle, pistol, everything else, body armor. My guys are all soldiers first. We’ve had normal military jobs first, so we’re all trained. We’ve all been to war before, in more dangerous jobs I suppose,” Lathan said.

He says actually embedding with the soldiers gave them access to better information and created better interviews with soldiers after the fact; compared to efforts of similar units in the past.

Major Donald Lathan (center) receives the orders to release his unit from duty

“It seemed like they were passive collectors, they would wait for stuff to come to them,” Lathan said. “The units think… you know… ‘Who’s this guy sitting up at the headquarters asking for our stuff?’ But when you’re out with them on the ground… We shared the same dust, we were on the same ground, we were in the same vehicle together. You shared my hardships, you shared my risk, so I’m gonna tell you more. That’s how we went about gathering more information.”

Lathan says the hundreds of hours of footage they shot during the last 10 months will be used by historians, and he also thinks it would be beneficial to people producing stories like the “Band of Brothers.” He says it will all be copied onto magnetic tape and stored in salt mines in West Virginia forever.

Lathan says his unit also helped produce the “This One’s For You” tribute with Fox Sports Midwest. He says that was a thrill for him, since he’s a life-long St. Louis Cardinals fan.

AUDIO: Ryan Famuliner reports [1 min MP3]