Danville Guard unit, families honored at ceremony

December 05, 2004|EMILY BURTON

A silent rank of the National Guard's 217th Quartermaster unit was honored Saturday by a panel of grateful military personnel. Though the recently-returned veterans of Operation Iraq Freedom went home with neatly folded flags and lauds of heroism, medals and pins of appreciation were given to the unit's family members in recognition of their support on the homefront.

Without their family's care and dedication, the unit would not have had such a successful mission, said Brigadier Gen. Norman Arflack during the ceremony at Danville High School.

"I want to thank you for what you did, what you have done, and what you'll continue to do. And I want to thank their families for allowing soldiers to serve and complete the mission they did in such an admirable fashion ... Without you, we soldiers cannot do what we do, and we owe you a great debt of gratitude," said Arflack.

Family members were reunited in April and May after the Danville unit's two teams returned from purifying an estimated 35 million gallons of water in Iraq.


Though there were no casualties suffered by the unit, their soldiers' days in the desert were "like a nightmare" for family members, said Lebanon's Buddy Campbell, vice-president of the 217th family support group. His 22-year-old daughter, Spc. Natasha Campbell, had served in Iraq for 14 1/2 months. Buddy Campbell had to bend down for his daughter to slip the medal over his head and hug him tightly.

"The grandest day of my life," was when his soldier-daughter returned, said Campbell. "They deserved to be honored."

Spc. Campbell said the ceremony of appreciation was good for the family. "I think it's great," she said. "It was a long year," that she spent "worrying that they were worrying."

This was the fifth such ceremony for the master of ceremonies Lt. Kevin Steel, 34, of Fort Knox's 751st National Guard unit.

"You show appreciation to the soldiers, number one, but also to their families," their employers and the whole community for supporting them, said Steel. During the ceremony he had applauded the unit's successful mission and proud history of service.

"...The 217th Quartermasters Detachment has always answered the call, has responded and executed the mission efficiently and effectively," Steel said.

That sentiment was echoed on the small brass plaque adorning each flag case awarded to the 15 soldiers of the 217th.

"To a true American hero in recognition of your service and sacrifice in the cause of freedom. Your service will never be forgotten. From the grateful people of the nation."

But should that service be required again, said Spc. Campbell, she would not fail to rise to the call of the duty.

The unit is already repairing equipment from its last tour and "preparing for it again if it happens again," said Campbell. "If it does, it does. That's my job."

Central Kentucky News Articles