A warm welcome and special thank you to my guest blogger today, Debra Estep, author of “Shoulder to Shoulder” in Love You More Than You Know. She is the proud Ohio Air Force Mom of SSgt Vincent Aleandri. This is Debra’s blog.
In early June of 2011, family and friends of the Ohio Army National Guard’s 1484th Transportation Company gathered to attend a Call to Duty ceremony. 180 members were preparing to mobilize for active duty in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.
Some were heading out for their first deployment, and others had been down this road before embarking on 2nd, 3rd, or 4th deployments. The soldiers and their families were well aware of the long year that lay before them. As the buses rolled away, tears rolled down so many faces. Young children could not grasp why Mommy or Daddy had to leave them. Grandparents who could grasp the why, still had the same tears.
It takes great strength and perseverance to join the United States all volunteer military. We’ve been at war for over a decade. Many of these young troops were in middle school when our engagement in Afghanistan and Iraq started. With the percentage of people serving being less than one percent of the population, many Americans don’t personally know anyone in the military.
I happen to know one of the soldiers from the 1484th Transportation Company–US Army Specialist Timothy Sheaffer. I met Tim when his Mother, Tanya Phillips, and I became friends years ago. I will never forget the first photo I saw of Tim in uniform. I did a double take thinking, this can’t possibly be that same KID. My heart filled with pride, grateful that we have individuals willing to stand and protect this country.
Tim said goodbye that June day, to his young wife, Amanda. In less than
six months, Amanda was due to give birth to their first child. Tim was in Afghanistan where he was able to view the birth of his baby girl, Brooklyn, via a Skype internet connection. Family back here in Ohio, surrounded Amanda and supported her through the labor and birth.
Several weeks later, Tim was able to take his R&R returning to Ohio for a short visit.
Those of us who have a family member serving, thank God for today’s technology that allows us to stay connected to our loved ones far away. Emails, videos, and phone calls, are all life lines to ours and our military member’s mental well being at such a stressful time.
On Saturday June 2, 2012, family and friends again gathered at the University of Akron’s Rhodes Arena. This day, there were tears also. These tears were tears of joy and gratitude. The Ohio Army National Guard’s 1484th Transportation Company rolled in on buses after flying into Akron/Canton airport.There were cheers, flag waving and a band playing as the unit marched in. Some speeches were made, as the unit was thanked for their service.
The unit was stationed near Kandahar, Afghanistan. No one from the unit was killed in this deployment. Sgt. Michael Barkey, 22, a Lawrence Township member of the unit, was killed in Iraq in 2004 and eight others were wounded.
As this unit acclimates back to civilian life, we know that another unit has replaced them. Freedom is not free. The safety and security we enjoy is paid for by those who serve and those who give their lives. Pray for them and please THANK them for their service !!!