When a member of the military is deployed to serve their country, they aren't the only ones who experience a huge change of life and associated struggles.
For that reason, the family and friends of troops from the New York National Guard who recently returned from Afghanistan were honored Saturday, along with their enlisted loved ones.
Members of Troop B, 2nd Squadron of the 101st Calvary, filled the Jamestown Armory as the guard and local politicians recognized them during the Freedom Salute Campaign.
Lt. Col. David Dunkle places the Purple Heart medal on Spc. Joseph Green on Saturday at the National Guard’s Freedom Salute ceremony at the Porter Avenue Armory.
P-J photo by Robert Rizzuto
Each member of the local guard received a number of commemorative items and one young man, Spc. Joseph Green, received a Purple Heart for injuries sustained during Operation Enduring Freedom.
Chautauqua County Executive Greg Edwards and State Sen. Catherine Young, R-Olean., took time Saturday to recognize the troops for their service.
''The fact that you stood up and volunteered to serve your country during a time of war speaks volumes about each of you,'' Sen. Young said. ''We revere you, we honor you and we will be there for you as we all owe you a debt of gratitude.''
Edwards brought Troy Smith, the director of Veterans' Services in Chautauqua County with him to the ceremony, and reminded the troops that there are many services available for them locally.
''Thanks to Sen. Young's efforts, we have a brand new Veterans' vehicle which is yours to use free of charge anytime you need transportation to the VA Hospital,'' he said. ''And if you take time to speak with Troy, you will learn how much support you really have right here in your own backyard. On behalf of our entire county, I thank you.''
First Sgt. James Walton was deployed along with the other members of Troop B, and said that they all performed important duties in Afghanistan.
''A lot of the guys here were in Kandahar and many served as embedded training teams, working to train Afghan military and police,'' he said. ''A few others were in logistical and support positions, making sure they had everything they needed to do their jobs.''
He explained that in most of the country, the local tribal governments are the ones which typically rule so it is taking the Afghan locals some time to adjust to the idea of a national or even regional police force. But the members who will make up that force along with the national military received daily training from the members of Troop B.
''The biggest challenge of the mission was probably working through the translators because the languages are so different that some things just don't translate,'' Walton said. ''And when you go into new areas, some average people have learned not to be afraid of Americans but others still have that phobia because of how long the Russians were there and how they treated people. The mission was challenging but also rewarding- preparing that country for its future.''
Guest Speaker Lt. Col. David C. Dunkle congratulated the group, and led them in a moment of silence for their comrades who paid the ultimate price during their deployment.
The Distinguished Center of Influence Award was given to Jerry Johnson, a former administrator with the local AMVETS Post 1996 and the Outstanding Center of Influence of Award was given to Jen Payne.
Following the formal ceremony, the troops and their family kicked off the afternoon with an informal reception.