Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Gresham City Council thanks Oregon Guardsmen for their lifesaving efforts during Oregon's winter storms

On the evening of Feb. 3, the City of Gresham honored 29 Oregon Army National Guard soldiers for their assistance during severe winter storms, Dec. 22-27, 2008.

The special ceremony took place during the Gresham City Council meeting in the Gresham City Hall's Council Chambers, presided over by Gresham's Mayor, Shane T. Bemis.

Bemis read a proclamation to the Oregon Army National Guard's 141st Brigade Support Battalion Executive Officer, Maj. Dan Morris, as a number of the unit’s soldiers and their family members watched.

“On behalf of our citizens of Gresham, we express our deep appreciation for the men and women of the Oregon National Guard,” the mayor stated in front of the standing-room only crowd.

Maj. Morris presented Mayor Bemis with a 141st BSB coin on behalf of Lt. Col. Brian James, battalion commander.

“I’m very proud of my guys. I’ve heard nothing but praise,” said Maj. Morris.

Maj. Morris thanked Mayor Bemis and the city’s fire and police personnel, many of whom were also in the audience.

“I can’t promise state assets, but if you ever need our help in the future, we’ll be glad to do it,” Maj. Morris joked.

The soldiers are members of the Oregon Army National Guard's 141st Brigade Support Battalion. They were placed on state active duty to assist emergency responders reach snow-bound citizens during heavy snow and ice storms around the Christmas holidays.

The unit provided Humvees and drivers so police and emergency medical technicians could assist citizens in Gresham neighborhoods--many of which are remote or involve steep hills--rendering typical emergency response vehicles incapable of performing their duties in the deep snow.

“This was some of the nastiest stuff we’ve seen in a long time,” said Gary Martin, a firefighter with Gresham Fire Station #71. “With the Humvees chained up, we had no problem reaching people who needed help.”

Gresham Police Chief Craig Junginger said the heavy snow prevented access to about half of the entire city of Gresham.

“When you’re tasked with providing law enforcement to the community and you can’t do it because you lack the resources, it’s a bit disconcerting,” he said. “We were really in a crisis. So when I saw those Humvees pull up, it was quite a relief.”

According to 141st BSB Executive Officer, Maj. Dan. Morris, during the storm response, two other soldiers went well above the call of duty during an emergency medical call.

Spc. Matthew White and Spc. Chelsea Moore, both of Alpha Company, drove a firefighter to a home in response to an emergency call from the home of Gary Palas. Palas had slipped on his icy front porch after returning home from dialysis treatment, tearing out the dialysis shunt. But instead of an ambulance showing up in his driveway, the 9-1-1 call resulted in an Oregon Army National Guard Humvee.

“If they had not shown up, I may not be alive today,” Palas said, flanked by soldiers at the Gresham City Council meeting.

According to Maj. Morris, both Spc. White and Spc. Moore will also receive the Oregon Exceptional Service Medal with Gold Star for their selfless sacrifice and efforts ‘well beyond the call of duty.’

Also assisting during the winter storms was a group of Oregon Air Guardsmen from the 116th Air Control Squadron Rear Detachment, who helped residents in Columbia County. As we remember from the news reports, Columbia County--specifically the town of Vernonia--was hard hit by severe flooding in December 2007.

Again and again, Guardsmen show that they are not just vibrant and important members of their local communities, but they continue to live up to the National Guard creed of "Always Ready, Always There," by both their example and actions.

Posted by Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy,
Oregon National Guard Emerging Digital Media Manager

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