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
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