Keep 3/116th and its families in our thoughts

Written by Observer editorial reports November 23, 2010 01:12 pm
A recent report from Sgt. Pat Caldwell, combat correspondent with the 116th Brigade Combat team, says the unit has put the final touches to its training and is set to embark on its mission in Iraq. Here’s hoping each and every soldier comes back safe. The 116th, including the La Grande-headquartered Third Battalion, has already proven itself brave and capable, having done a previous tour in the long-troubled country in 2004.

It’s sad commentary that the war on terror grinds on and there’s a need for the 116th to go back, but one thing is certain: these National Guard soldiers will do their duty, without compromise and without complaint. The 116th long ago proved itself an equal among combat units throughout the armed services.

Getting ready for the second go, the soldiers trained rigorously at home for months, then underwent more than 40 days of intense final preparation at Camp Shelby, Miss. By all accounts, esprit de corps remained high throughout.

Convoy escort will be the main focus of 3/116th’s mission in Iraq, though the unit will put many other skill sets, all the soldier’s art, to work. U.S. First Army trainers evaluated the 116th recently at Shelby and gave the unit a glowing
endorsement.

Soldiers will travel to Kuwait and then Iraq. In the meantime, Third Battalion Commander
Lt. Col. Phil Appleton has warned families
back home to be prepared for infrequent
communication.

Worry and uncertainty about soldiers’ safety is one of many hardships imposed on families left behind. It’s no stretch to say the parents, spouses and children of these soldiers deserve medals for sacrifices they’ve made in the name of freedom, not once, but twice.

The official position of the United States government these days is that combat operations in Iraq have ended. That may well be, but even the most optimistic among us know Iraq remains a dangerous place.

The soldiers of the 3/116th go with their heads held high, proud of their record and determined to help keep the tenuous peace they had a hand in establishing before.

They’ve put their hearts into their service, given up much and asked for little. The least we can do is keep them — and their families —  in our thoughts, each and every day until they return.