Ceremony honors soldiers before deploymentBISMARCK — The country knows it can to turn to North Dakota for some of the nation’s most capable soldiers and that will be proven again during the National Guard’s latest mission in Afghanistan, Gov. Jack Dalrymple said Sunday.
By: Teri Finneman, Forum Communications Co., The Jamestown Sun
BISMARCK — The country knows it can to turn to North Dakota for some of the nation’s most capable soldiers and that will be proven again during the National Guard’s latest mission in Afghanistan, Gov. Jack Dalrymple said Sunday.
About 100 soldiers with the Williston and Hazen-based 818th Engineer Company were honored Sunday during a send-off ceremony in Bismarck. The soldiers will leave today for Fort Bliss, Texas, for additional training before deploying to Afghanistan for a yearlong mission.
Patrick Keller, a Center, N.D., native, said it hadn’t sunk in yet that he’s leaving even though he volunteered to go on the mission.
“It’s hard to put into words how you feel,” he said.
This isn’t his first assignment in Afghanistan and his family has a history of military service. But he was single during his first deployment. He’s since married Kate Schell, a former reporter for KX News in Bismarck.
“It’s a lot tougher (to leave) this time,” he said.
State officials praised the soldiers and their families during the hour-long send-off ceremony. Dalrymple said it’s difficult to say good-bye, but the soldiers will perform a noble mission.
“They’re making our world a better place by using their skills and expertise overseas,” he said.
One-third of the unit consists of volunteers from other units, and nearly half of the soldiers have served previous overseas deployments, Dalrymple said.
Rep. Rick Berg, R-N.D., praised the personal sacrifices of the soldiers to ensure peace and freedom for the next generation. The 818th will play a big part in the transition from war to peace in Afghanistan, Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., said.
“It is a critical time. It is a critical mission,” he said. “No one can do it better than you will, and I believe it will have a lasting impact.”
Maj. Gen. David Sprynczynatyk said Sunday was a difficult day, but it was also a day for soldiers to recognize the role they play in the nation’s defense and freedoms.
“These professional Sappers are well trained and fully prepared to undertake their important trailblazer mission, keeping roads safe and clear for our coalition military and the citizens of Afghanistan,” he said.
Since 2001, the North Dakota National Guard has mobilized more than 3,800 soldiers and 1,800 airmen in support of the Global War on Terrorism. For every 10,000 North Dakota residents, 65 serve in the North Dakota National Guard, a rate more than four times the national average, Hoeven said.
About 500 people attended the send-off event. Daniel Tveit, 27, of Hawley, Minn., said it was good to see the support for the soldiers.
“I feel good,” he said. “More excited than nervous.”
Tveit, who has previously deployed to Kosovo, said he’d try to eat at Buffalo Wild Wings before he left but was otherwise ready to go.
“Take each day at a time,” he said. “Things will be all right.”
Teri Finneman is a multimedia correspondent for Forum Communications Co.