Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Oregon National Guard celebrates homecoming, National Guard birthday, and Community Covenant signing

Yesterday, state, military and community leaders came together to honor Oregon Army National Guard Soldiers returning from duty following a year's deployment in Afghanistan at the Anderson Readiness Center in Salem, Ore.
In addition to honoring the sacrifices and service of these fine Soldiers, the gathering also marked the 372nd birthday of the National Guard -- the oldest military organization in the United States. See related National Guard Bureau story here.

Mr. Mike Hanley, Oregon/southeast Washington service area director for TriWest Healthcare Alliance, presented Maj. Gen. Rees a check for $30,000, on behalf of Oregon's Emergency Relief Fund. The fund assists Oregon's Airmen and Soldiers, and their families during times of need.

But the most significant accomplishment was the signing of the Army Community Covenant by Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski--a document described by Mr. Larry Deibert, Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army, as "a formal commitment of support by state and local communities to Army Soldiers and their families.

“(This) is a gesture designed to develop and foster effective state and community partnerships with the Army and reaffirms the Army’s commitment to Soldiers,” Mr. Deibert said.

Governor Kulongoski, joined Maj. Gen. Rees in welcoming home the members of the ETT, calling the simultaneous covenant signing, National Guard birthday, and welcome home ceremony for the Soldiers, a gift to Oregon.

“Christmas came a little early this year,” Kulongoski said. “We’re blessed to have you home.”

Maj. Gen. Rees reminded the gathering about Capt. Bruno Giancarlo de Solenni, who was killed in September by an improvised explosive device outside Kandahar, Afghanistan.

“The joy we feel today has come at a great price,” Maj. Gen. Rees said.

“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived,” Rees said of Capt. De Solenni’s sacrifice, quoting Gen. George Patton.

The group spent a year in Afghanistan advising the Afghan National Army Counter-Narcotics Infantry Battalion, also known as Kandak, on clearing, holding and protecting areas to deny opium operations.

“You had a tough year, but you rose to the occasion,” Maj. Gen. Rees said to the 13 Soldiers in the ETT.

As part of the 372nd birthday celebration for the National Guard, ETT member, Capt. Paul Dyer joined Governor Kulongoski and Maj. Gen. Rees in cutting the birthday cake.

The bulk of the ETT returned to Oregon on Dec. 12. A few members will return home within the next few months. The unit was commanded by Lt. Col. Keith Ensley.

Story by Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy,
New Media Manager, Oregon National Guard Public Affairs Office

Photos by Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy and Sgt. Eric Rutherford, Oregon National Guard Public Affairs Office. Multimedia presentation courtesy of Stephanie Yao, Oregonian. To view the Oregonian post, visit here.

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