Like Americans at home, local soldiers thousands of miles away in Afghanistan also get a Memorial Day holiday. But instead of thinking of soldiers far away, and those lost to combat, they think about family back in the States.
Michael Crounse, of Glenville, a New York State National Guard staff sergeant, said about 150 soldiers observed Memorial Day on Monday with a 40-minute ceremony on the base including a speech and a moment of silence.
“It’s a nice time to reflect on the people that gave their lives for the war effort. I’m sure there are some people here that have had friends who have been injured or killed in Iraq or Afghanistan,” he said via telephone Thursday.
Crounse said the troops were thinking about their families back home.
“We appreciate the sacrifices they’re making while we’re over here,” he said.
Crounse, who is an officer with the Schenectady Police Department, has been in Afghanistan since April and will be there through the end of the year.
He is a member of the National Guard 27th Brigade Logistical Task Force, which is based in Rochester and is part of the 427th Brigade Support Battalion. He works with about 11 soldiers in his Alpha Company. There are a total of 128 from the brigade stationed in the country. His mission is to help train a unit of 25 to 30 Afghan soldiers. He teaches them about the proper way to handle and store ammunition.
“They’re willing to learn,” he said. “They like the fact that we’re here helping them.”
Besides the training, they also handle inventory and unloading of supply trucks.
Crounse, who has been in the military for eight years, said he likes the camaraderie of the service and “being with people who are like-minded, working toward the same goal.”
“I like being able to come over here and help a nation that needs our help, training them to stand up for themselves and fight for themselves,” he said.
National Guard spokesman Lt. Col. Paul Fanning said members of the New York National Guard team serve as embedded trainers that move with their Afghan “kandaks” — battalions — as they confront the Taliban.
Among the threats the military faces are improvised explosive devices, suicide bombers, ambushes and rocket attacks.
“Some areas in Afghanistan are more dangerous than others. We try to stay up on the changing enemy situation and plan our operations accordingly,” he said in an e-mail to The Daily Gazette.
Fanning added that American forces go to great lengths to prevent noncombatants from being injured. “But the enemy has no concern about the hardworking ordinary Afghan man, woman or child and often their attacks injure, maim and kill the innocent,” he said.
In addition, American troops hand out food, medicine and clothing to families and children in villages.
“Over here, our soldiers are doing everything they can to help the Afghans resist their enemy and ours. Our men and women are doing that by standing by their side, helping to teach and guide them, sharing the dangers and risks and investing much of our heart and soul,” he wrote. “These are good people and they do not want to spend forever in darkness or deprivation.”
The American soldiers also got to hear a speech. The troops heard from Col. Mark Heffner, commander of the Transition Assistance Group, who gave a history of Memorial Day. May 30 is the traditional Memorial Day date, although the official observance is on the fourth Monday of May.
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Categories: Schenectady County