FORT CARSON, Colo. - People who organize soldier homecomings at Fort Carson said it had never happened until Friday night -- a returning soldier proposed to his girlfriend during the ceremony.
Sgt. Michael Higgins was called up to the middle of the Special Events Center along with his girlfriend, Jinette Rich.
"I was shocked," Rich said. "I came here just to pick him up and take him home."
Rich nervously approached Higgins. He then bent down on one knee and asked her to marry him. Their conversation couldn't be heard, but her reaction and the approval of the crowd indicated that she accepted.
"We've been together for almost a year and a half," Higgins said. "But I've been deployed for most of the time."
Higgins was among 240 members of the 4th Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, coming home after a nine-month deployment to Kuwait for security duty to support Operation Enduring Freedom.
Rich said her fiance has returned as a different man.
"He sounds different," she said. "There's something different. But it's still him, still up to his old tricks."
The couple said they hadn't told their families of their engagement yet. They plan to marry in Las Vegas.
On Saturday night, 138 more members of the 4th ABCT returned. That ceremony became noteworthy when two girls rushed across the floor to embrace their fathers before the soldiers were officially dismissed.
"I was trying to hold her back, and then she just broke free, and she's like, 'I gotta go,'" said Elizabeth James, the mother of one of the girls, Bella. "So she just ran to him. Did I think about running out there and trying to catch her? No, just let her go."
Four hours earlier, 20 members of the 242nd Ordinance Battalion, 71st Ordinance Group, returned after a yearlong mission diffusing explosives in Afghanistan. The soldiers worked with the Air Force and Navy on the mission.
But the talk of the Mountain Post was Friday night's proposal. One Army wife was surprised to hear about it.
"I don't think I would have gone through with that," said Lisa Lin. "Not in front of a whole bunch of people, but more secluded, one on one."
Several observers remarked that it's more common for proposals to happen before a soldier's deployment.