ST. MARYS — Approximately 90 soldiers based at the St. Marys unit of the Ohio Army National Guard will be honored at a ceremony later this month.
A Call to Duty ceremony will be held at 9 a.m. Oct. 16 at Memorial High School to mark the deployment of St. Marys Alpha Company of the Special Troops Battalion 37th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. The unit was called into active duty earlier this year for a yearlong deployment that will feature service in Afghanistan.
“They are at Camp Shelby, Miss., for training and they will come home in time to go to the ceremony,” Captain Matt Molinski told The Evening Leader. “Soon after they will return to Camp Shelby for training and later in the winter they will go to Afghanistan.”
Molinski estimated the unit would spend 10 months in the central Asian nation. The ceremony, which is open to the public, is a way to honor the troops as well as families.
“We have brought it up throughout the years as deployments have taken more and more soldiers from the Ohio Army National Guard,” Molinski said. “We make the transition from guard members to full-time deploying overseas as an Army soldier — it’s a very significant moment in their lives. We invite family members, employers, community members and we also invite any state and local elected officials who would like to be a part of honoring the soldiers.”
An engineering unit, the locally based brigade is versed in military construction. Molinski noted the unit also will help out in other areas.
“They are very versatile when it comes to military-type construction, route clearance and security operations,” Molinski said. “They could perform a number of things on any missions. That training they receive makes sure they are competent in basic soldier tasks — shooting their rifle, driving a vehicle safely and throwing a hand grenade.”
The unit returned from its last deployment in 2008. Molinski encouraged residents to attend the ceremony to support not only the soldiers, but their families as well.
“It’s not necessarily critical for the soldiers, but it’s critical for the community and family members who have a connection to see that turnout,” Molinski said. “When you are overseas, you are supported in a variety of ways — letters and cards. For those folks back home, their support is one-on-one and a few have family support groups. So it’s really important for those people left at home to see a huge community support. It gives them recognition for their own soldiers, it’s pretty cool.”
Sgt. Lou Badgett said seeing citizens turn out for the ceremony goes a long way in helping the soldiers as they embark on their deployment.
“It gives them more purpose,” Badgett said. “The local citizens showing their appreciation is a huge confidence booster.”
While deployed, Badgett said receiving letters, especially those from school children, meant a lot to him. He also noted receiving cards and care packages are appreciated by those who are serving abroad.
Badgett also encouraged residents to attend the ceremony to show their support for the soldiers.
“It’s a sense of pride,” Badgett said. “The local citizens are there supporting what you do — deploying to a combat zone. Them showing their support is huge, it makes what they are doing worth it.”
Badgett said residents are encouraged to arrive starting at 8 a.m. to ensure a seat.