Thursday, April 22, 2010

Forest Grove High School band teams up with Oregon National Guard Band at 2-218 FA demob ceremony

This was pretty cool, especially if you're in the band at Forest Grove High School.

Today at the demobilization ceremony for the Oregon Army National Guard's 2-218 Field Artillery, 41 Infantry Brigade Combat Team in Forest Grove, the Oregon Army National Guard's 234 Army Band joined forces with the Forest Grove High School Band, to play several patriotic songs and even the Army Song at the end of the event!

Soldiers of the 2-218 FA arrived back in the Northwest along with almost 3,000 other Oregonians, after spending 10 months deployed to Iraq. The even was attended by Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski, Maj. Gen. Raymond F. Rees, the Adjutant General, the mayor of Forest Grove, the principal of Forest Grove High School, and several other representatives of city, local, and state government and businesses.

Our special thanks go out to the City of Forest Grove, the Forest Grove High School, and especially to the members of the Forest High School Band, for helping make today's event a success.

Thanks also to Rogue Brewery, for the commemorative label beer, "Sunset Stout", which was distributed free of charge to every Soldier of the 41 IBCT.

To see more pictures from the event, visit our official Flickr page, located here.

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

More Oregon Soldiers return home, reunited with family and friends

Yesterday in Portland, about 600 Oregon Soldiers took part in a demobilization ceremony at the Chiles Center on the University of Portland campus.

The usual suspects were in attendance: Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski, Oregon State Senator Betsy Johnson (D-Scappoose), Portland Mayor Sam Adams and Oregon National Guard's Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Raymond F. Rees, who drew a very profound reference to the return of our Soldiers, and the "shot heard around the world"--a reference to the battle of The Old North Bridge in Concord, Mass., on April 19, 1775, an event which touched off the Revolutionary War and the birth of our great nation.

But the real excitement happened right outside the arena prior to the ceremony. Hundreds of Oregon Soldiers were reunited with their family, friends, children, and supporters. There were lots of hugs and kisses (and tears).

One such family was the Howard clan. Their patriarch, SFC Roland Howard is a long-time acquaintance of mine. Back in 2004, I met Howard at Camp Shelby in Mississippi, as he and his fellow Oregon Guardsmen were training and preparing for another deployment--to Afghanistan.

I rolled into the darkened hooch at around 1:00 a.m. after spending most of the day on planes and in airports. My mission was to document the 41st Brigade (that's what they were called back then), and their training for the upcoming deployment.

Howard was the only one awake, amongst a dorm full of sleeping, snoring Soldiers. He put down his book, showed me to a vacant cot, and handed me his poncho and a blanket. He said, "I'm Sgt. Howard. If you need anything else, let me know." And with that, he turned on his heels, and went back to his book. It was the start of a long-standing friendship.

And now here he is, home from another deployment, just like hundreds and thousands of other Soldiers, holding his sons in his arms. Can anything be better than that?

I've never personally deployed for anything longer than a few months, so I can't imagine what these Soldiers and families feel like to be reunited. A lot of them used the word "relief". But there's something indescribable about a father simply holding and kissing his son, who he hasn't seen for almost a year. I'll just let the picture do the talking... as they say, it is worth a thousand words.

Posted by Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy,
Oregon Military Department Social Media Manager

Monday, April 19, 2010

They're home!

Originally uploaded by oregonmildep

There are hundreds of photos of the Oregon National Guard's 41 IBCT return home now filtering in, and there will likely be thousands more, as soldiers return to their homes and communities in the coming weeks.

I was hard-pressed to find one that was representative of the mass of images.

Until I saw this one.

After it's all said and done, what really matters most to our fellow Oregon citizen-soldiers is that they're home, and the happy smiles of reunited family members.

Welcome home... job well done!

To view more photos of the Oregon soldiers' homecoming, or to stay abreast of updates, visit the following sites:

Flickr (photos)
Facebook (stories, posts, photos & video)

Photo credit: Sgt. Eric Rutherford, Oregon Military Department Public Affairs Office

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

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Time to step up for Oregon veterans (Oregonian editorial)

Yesterday, the Oregonian's Mike Francis posted this editorial to his "Oregon at War" blog. It begs reprinting here on our blog.

One thing about sending soldiers to war repeatedly for more than six years is that you learn a few things about bringing them home. Oregon will need all that experience and more beginning this month, as it re-absorbs some 2,700 soldiers of the Oregon National Guard's 41st Brigade who have spent most of the last year in Iraq.

tsumpti.JPGAbove: Staff Sgt. Raymond Tsumpti of the Warm Springs Reservation triggers a pop-up barrier at an entry gate at Camp Victory in October, 2009. Photo by Mike Francis

This represents the state's biggest single contribution to a war effort in 60 years, so the effort to reintegrate the brigade into Oregon's civilian life must reach into every corner of the state and extend for months -- even years.

Some needs are pressing and immediate. Veterans advocates working on the reintegration campaign they're calling "Fort Oregon" now say they believe that fully half of the soldiers in the brigade are unemployed and will need to start collecting civilian paychecks quickly. For those soldiers, the Guard is trying to assemble potential employers -- a more difficult job than usual at a time of double-digit unemployment.

Many of the needs will emerge in unexpected ways and unexpected times. Months from now, family members may notice symptoms that suggest something is amiss. They may develop needs for marriage counseling, physical therapy, financial advice or any number of things. For them, the Guard and its advocates are assembling networks of veterans and civilian experts who donate a little time to assisting where they are needed. They hope to establish a series of county-based "vet nets" modeled after the mixed volunteer-and-nonprofit networks in Lane and Clackamas counties.

All that said, there is reason to hope that, this time, reintegration may be smoother than it has been in previous deployments. After all, over the last year the Oregon National Guard soldiers played mostly supporting roles as Iraqis took over the challenging business of governing themselves. For Oregon soldiers, there was a lot of driving, standing at checkpoints and providing logistical support. They weren't thrust into out-and-out combat as they were in previous deployments. (Of course, many of them are the same people who served earlier, so that may not be a terribly meaningful distinction.)

At the same time, these soldiers were better connected to home than earlier soldiers, even to the point of carrying their cell phones from home all the way to a place like Camp Adder, where Verizon has partnerships with local telephone service providers. Being connected to home can add to stress at times, but it also can keep a deployment from seeming so lonely.

And of course, plenty of people will come home and do just fine. Many are focused, disciplined people who will slip back into civilian life as easily as a beaver slips into a pond.

And yet, they are the lucky ones. Military leadership and civilian veterans advocates are horrified by the rate of suicide among military personnel and officers. At least 301 active-duty military personnel killed themselves last year, more than were killed by other causes in Iraq or Afghanistan. It's not certain how many recent veterans took their own lives. Oregon must be prepared to think that, in every community in the state, a veteran might be lying awake, feeling unmoored, unappreciated, angry or all three.

They did what they were ordered to do, putting their lives on hold to serve in uniform, far from home in a dangerous place. The least we can do now is to help them feel safe at home.

To visit the Fort Oregon website, go here.

Editorial by Mike Francis,
The Oregonian

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Bend opens first central Oregon veterans center!

Originally uploaded by oregonmildep
Gary Hunter, Bend Veterans Center Team Leader, (left, center), cuts the ribbon at the center’s dedication ceremony in Bend, Ore., Apr. 7, 2010. U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Oregon Military Department Director of Staff, Brig. Gen. Mike Caldwell also attended the event. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy, Oregon Military Department Public Affairs Office).

Monday, April 5, 2010

First wave of Oregon's 41 IBCT soldiers return from Iraq

The first wave of soldiers of the Oregon Army National Guard's 41 Infantry Brigade Combat Team returned to the Northwest, April 3, 2010. They will go through outprocessing at Fort Lewis, Wash., before returning to homes and communities throughout Oregon.

Interviewed are Spc. Anita Vandermolen, Spc. Howard Pierson and Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Foesch. Video by Spc. Jason Van Mourik, Oregon Military Department Public Affairs Office.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Oregon's 41 IBCT returns home

Originally uploaded by oregonmildep
The first group of Oregon soldiers steps off the plane at McChord AFB, Wash., on April 3.

Look for more updates on arrivals and demobilization ceremonies for these Oregon soldiers.

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more news, updates. locations of ceremonies, and photos/videos!

Friday, April 2, 2010

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Originally uploaded by flypdx
The boys from the Hawaii Air National Guard dropped by the Portland Air National Guard Base/Portland International Airport on April 1. (Or maybe they just stopped to get some gas?). Anyway, thanks for the great photos, flypdx!