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MANSFIELD, Ohio — Mansfield police officers Randy Carver and Nelson Kilgore didn't cross paths during their recent tours of Afghanistan.
Kilgore was relieved they didn't.
He was on the fallen comrade detail at his base when he got word http://www.armytimes.com/news/2012/04/army-3-soldiers-killed-afghan-attack-identified-040612/">three members of Carver's unit had been killed this spring.
"He was freaking out when he heard about it because he knew where I was at," Carver said.
Carver and Kilgore returned safely from Afghanistan recently. They will be back on their regular jobs in mid-November.
Carver, 33, is a staff sergeant with an Ohio Army National Guard unit near Toledo. Kilgore, 40, has been with the 179th Airlift Wing of the Ohio Air National Guard for 22 years. He is a master sergeant.
Both Carver and Kilgore joined the city police department in 2005.
"I'm ready to come back," Carver said. "We definitely have to get back to doing what makes us who we are."
Carver was deployed for 13 months and spent more than eight months in Afghanistan. He was an infantryman and worked with security forces.
Carver noted the similarities between his jobs.
"There's the possibility of getting shot at and maybe having to take someone's life," he said. "Over there, it seems more imminent."
While Carver didn't have any close calls, he had to deal with losing three members of his unit. They were killed in a suicide attack.
"It was rough," Carver said.
Kilgore had to deal with too many deaths during his tour, which lasted more than six months.
"I've seen my fill of flag-draped coffins," he said.
Kilgore also helped supervise security for his base. He said the uncertainty of military service makes it challenging.
"I'd rather know that I'm going to a man with a gun call than what happened over there. At least [here] I know what's coming," he said. "[In Afghanistan] I never got to see my enemy. That was frustrating."
Carver, who enlisted in 1999, said he knew as a child that he wanted to be in the Army. He was previously deployed to Iraq in 2004 and Kosovo in 2006.
Kilgore didn't know he would pursue a military career. His mother worked at Ashland University, meaning he could attend for free, but college wasn't for him. Kilgore left after a semester and joined the Air National Guard.
"I joined to serve my country," he said. "I had no idea I'd still be in it."
Kilgore was deployed to Bahrain in 2002 and was scheduled to go to Iraq in 2009, but a broken ankle suffered on his police job kept him on the sidelines.
He plans to retire in two years.
Carver and Kilgore are family men. Carver recognized his wife, Tosha, for being a single mother to their three daughters — ages 14, 10 and 3 — while he was overseas. Carver has tattoos of his daughters' handprints on his arms and shoulders.
He also credited the people at Fat Joe's Barbershop for making sure his wife had wood for the winter and police Sgt. Doug Noblet, the department military liaison and a veteran himself.
Kilgore's wife, Beth, is a member of the Red Horse squadron at the 179th. They have a daughter who is a sophomore at Malone University.
Both men said their military experiences will stay with them.
"There's a lot of evil in the world that most people don't see," Carver said. "[But] there's good people over there. You've got to keep reminding yourself of that."
U.S. forces are scheduled to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014. Kilgore wants people to remember their efforts.
"It's almost like they've forgotten about the war at home," he said.