After an anticipated six-month deployment to the Middle East turned into a year, Gunnery Sergeant Scott Colagrossi returned to his family and cheering neighbors this week in Mapleton.
Flags lined the streets leading to his house and neighbors waved and held red, white and blue balloons on Tuesday as a parade of Mapleton emergency vehicles made its way through the neighborhood, their sirens announcing Colagrossi’s arrival. Seated on top of a fire engine, Colagrossi waved and threw candy.
Neighbors of Colagrossi’s family organized the celebration. “I’ll do anything I can to say thank you for his service. What a sacrifice to spend a year away from your family serving your country on a ship,” said neighbor Kristina Manscill.
A member of the U.S. Marine Corps, Colagrossi spent just one week in his family’s new Mapleton home before leaving for what would be his fourth and longest deployment on Feb. 23, 2020. He, his wife and four children knew this deployment was coming and moved from California to Utah to be closer to family. With the onset of COVID-19, however, the deployment came earlier than expected.
After spending a few months preparing for departure and quarantining to ensure no one had the COVID-19 virus, the crew left aboard the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier. Their time aboard would be longer than anticipated.
“We were originally expecting only about six months, and it turned into about 10 and a half months,” Colagrossi said.
He was assigned to Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 323, known as the Death Rattlers, and deployed with Carrier Strike Group 11. An aircraft mechanic, he worked to maintain and repair the carrier’s aircraft.
The carrier made its way throughout the South China Sea, the Persian Gulf, the Gulf of Oman and elsewhere as it helped keep sea lanes open and acted as a deterrent in the Middle East.
Colagrossi was expected to return in time for Christmas, but conditions overseas led to an extension of his deployment. That was followed by another extension.
“We’ve been waiting a long time,” said Colagrossi’s wife, Jena. She was so unsure about whether he’d actually make it home this time, she didn’t tell her neighbors he was returning until a week ago.
“I’m so overwhelmed with love,” Jena said when asked about her neighbors’ efforts to welcome her husband home, adding that they’ve taken care of her and her family during the past year.
Jena flew to San Diego to meet her husband and accompany him back to Utah, but his children – 15-year-old Mia, 14-year-old Lincoln, 3-year-old Reagan and 1-year-old Jared – didn’t see him until he arrived on the fire truck. Colagrossi had missed Jared’s first birthday.
“I’m super excited,” said Mia as she waited for her father’s arrival.
“This family, they’re my heroes … just because the whole family’s had to sacrifice,” said Fernae Morley, Jena’s aunt. “That’s why we’re excited to be here, to welcome them home.”