Amid Colored Eggs and Chocolate Rabbits We are Still at War

Americans at home are celebrating Easter and Passover. Here in Ohio, we are living our everyday lives surrounded by sunshine, daffodils, and song birds in springtime. Our joy turned to sorrow at the news of losing three Ohio National Guard members in Afghanistan this past week. Four other were wounded.

In an article by Mike Waterhouse, the Ohio National Guard said “three Ohio soldiers, Shawn Hannon, Capt.Nicholas Rozanski and Jeff Rieck, were killed after an attack in Afghanistan.The brigade’s assignment was to partner with Afghan national police to train and advise them on security.”

The Associated Press reported what Alex Rozanski said of his brother, Capt. Nicholas Rozanski of Dublin, ” He loved being in the National Guard. He loved being a soldier. He loved being a leader of soldiers.” Alex also said, “We are a nation at war, and men are dying on a regular basis over there. And people need to remember that.”

Gov. John Kasich posted this message: “Saddened to learn of the attack on OH Nat’l Guardsmen in Afghanistan. Ohio has lost 3 brave souls. Prayers go out to the families.” We join the Governor in holding the families and friends of the wounded and deceased soldiers in prayer.

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Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program Sponsored by the National Guard

Battle Buddies Szerdy, Hinson, and Popow at Post-deployment Reintegration Retreat, Quail Hollow

My guest columnist is Katherine Harris Szerdy, mother of Sgt. Katelyn Szerdy. Katherine recently had two of her children deployed at the same time. We thank God that both are safely home.

On July 10, families of 180 soldiers from the Ohio Army National Guard 112th Engineering Battalion welcomed home their loved ones after their 12-month deployment to Afghanistan.  Unlike previous wars, today’s military is offering greater support to deployed men and women and their families.

The National Guard Joint Services Support, a relatively new organization within the National Guard, coordinates two post-deployment retreats as part of the “Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program,” whose mission is to provide family support during the entire deployment cycle.

Families join their soldiers at these retreats scheduled 30-days and 60-days after their return from theater.  Free childcare is provided while spouses or parents attend breakout sessions on PTSD–what it looks like, stress management, relationships, finances, and veterans benefits.  Both of the reintegration retreats for the 112th are held at Quail Hollow Resort in Concord, Ohio, and the National Guard picks up the entire tab, including meals.

“I was extremely impressed with the efforts of the NGJSS to offer these retreats for the families at no cost.  I don’t know of any other branch of the military, which offers such support.  I would really like to see some long-term studies done on these soldiers and their families to see if they actually have an easier time with reintegration than those military personnel who don’t get this benefit.”It seems that the National Guard is doing all they can to live up to the Joint Services Support motto:   “Stronger Relationships Mean a Stronger National Guard.”

Thank you Sgt. Katelyn and the soldiers from the 112th Engineering Battalion for your service. Welcome home.

My Father’s Flag

Mary Vayo- Grandmother of Joe Reinart

With the death of bin Laden, we have been looking back at what happened on 9/11.  The company my husband works for, Marsh had one of its offices in the twin towers of the World Trade Center. My husband lost 295 colleagues that day. The attack also prompted my son to enlist in the Ohio National Guard.

After September 11th, a flag was raised at ground zero. Just before my son left for his deployment to Iraq, my father (WWII veteran) passed away. My son was part of the honor guard that handed my father’s flag to my mother.  When my son returned from Iraq, my mother returned the favor and handed my son, my father’s flag. Whenever I see our country’s flag, my heart swells and my eyes tear. God bless our troops and our veterans.

Excerpt from “Boots To Ground” in Love You More Than You Know:

The sweet mournful sound of taps honored my father’s leaving, echoing in the cold December morning. The silence was shattered by a color guard firing a twenty-one-gun salute. Our country’s flag fluttered, as it lay draped over the casket of a hero, Joseph Vayo, a Navy veteran of WWII. 

Reverently, the color guard folded this bright symbol of freedom into a triangle.  My son, Specialist Joseph Reinart, Ohio Army National Guard, stepped briskly forward to receive the flag. Turning to my mother, Joe said, “ On behalf of the President of the United States of America, I present you with this flag for your husband’s faithful service to our country.  May God bless you, and I love you, Grandma.”

Just weeks later, Joe was leaving.  My son, my father’s namesake, was being deployed to the Middle East to serve his country. . .  Joe’s homecoming was February 11, 2005, a wonderful Valentine’s Day present.  In the crowded cafeteria at a school in Youngstown, teary eyed, my Mom presented Joe with my Father’s flag for his faithful service to our country.