Everyone is back – WELCOME home soldiers!

The final planeload of Battle Company soldiers returned to Joint Base Lewis-McChord in the early morning hours of Sunday, Dec. 8, 2012.

The final moment of their deployment had actually arrived and was celebrated by the family of Jeff and Storm Schoonover. Enjoy their photos:

First there’s the waiting … and waiting … her T-shirt says it all

FINALLY in the crowd, Storm Funston-Schoonover and Jeff Scott Schoonover and their family connect.

Schoonover family is back together again – notice smiles

The same wide smiles happened about a week earlier when a previous group of Battle Company soldiers came home …

Dugan Girrens (left), Kevin Teixeria (center) and Antwan Evans (right)

Dugan Girrens (left), Kevin Teixeria (center) and Antwan Evans (right)

Kevin Teixeria and his daughter, Riley

Finally – WELCOME HOME … all of you!

UPDATE – the puppy parade is a success

This video was prepared by Frank LeMaire especially for two Battle Company soldiers – Justin Pilla and Steven LeMaire (his son).

These two American heroes, each with a big heart for little puppies, fell in love with Chloe and Charlie when they were puppies in the battlefield of Afghanistan this year. Both soldiers went to went to considerable effort and expense (with a lot of help from back home folks!) to bring their beloved dogs to their respective homes in America where both dogs now live and wait for their soldiers to come home too.

After preparing this video during the Thanksgiving holiday, Frank said it best: “Chloe and Charlie are living a better life, because these two soldiers and The Puppy Rescue Mission family made it happen. Welcome to America, Battle Puppies.”

Look around this blog and you’ll find the stories of both soldiers and their dogs.

A Soldier’s Christmas

This traditional poem was appropriate when our soldier/sons began their deployment in Afghanistan last Christmas … and it is still true.

T’was the night before Christmas,
and he lived in a crowd.
In a 40-man tent, with warriors so loud,
I had come into the tent with presents to give,
and to see who in this rack did live.
I looked all about, and a strange sight I did see.
No tinsel, no presents, not even a tree.
No stockings were hung, just boots close at hand,
and on the locker hung a picture of a far distant land.
He had medals and badges and awards of all kinds.

A sobering thought came into my mind,
for this place was different,
it was so dark and dreary;
I had found the home of a Soldier, and this I could see clearly.
The Soldier lay sleeping, silent and alone,
curled up in his rack, dreaming of home.
The face was so gentle, the barracks in such good order,
but not how I pictured a United States Soldier.

Was this the hero whom I saw on TV?
Defending his country so we all could be free?
I realized the families that I’ve seen this night,
owed their lives to these Soldiers who were willing to fight.
Soon round the world, the children would play,
and grownups would celebrate a new Christmas Day.

They all enjoyed freedom each month of the year
because of the Soldiers, like the one lying here.
I couldn’t help but wonder how many lay alone,
on a cold Christmas Eve, in a land far from home.

The very thought brought a tear to my eye,
I dropped to my knees and started to cry.
The Soldier awakened and I heard a rough voice,
“Santa, don’t cry, for this life is my choice.”
“Defend my country this day, the peace do I keep.”

The Soldier then rolled over and drifted to sleep,
I couldn’t control it – I continued to weep.
I kept watch for hours so silent, so still,
and we both shivered from the night’s cold chill.
I didn’t want to leave on that cold, dark night,
to leave this guardian of honor so willing to fight.

Then the Soldier rolled over and with a voice soft and pure,
whispered, “Carry on Santa, it’s Christmas … All is secure.

– traditional, adapted

Thank you Battle Company soldiers for your service, your commitment to our nation and to your families, and especially for your friendship. You all have indeed been the soldier in this poem.

We are proud of you and grateful for the opportunity this year to support you in small ways. Please stay in touch with us in the years to come as your adventures in the Army and in life continue. We will continue to pray for each one of you. – Jerry and Ruth Montgomery

More Battle Company soldiers are home!

Nov. 12, 2012 – Another group of Battle Company soldiers arrived back home at Joint Base Lewis-McChord today.

Perry Williams is re-united with his family on Nov. 12

Perry Williams’ daughter and her sign.

Sueann Teixeira welcomes home her dad, Kevin Teixeira

The smile on Sueann Teixeira’s face says it all as her dad, Pfc. Kevin Teixeira, came home from his deployment in Afghanistan today.

Why should we care about Nov. 11th – Veteran’s Day?

The American flag flying over an outpost in the Afghanistan mountains

Some thoughts from Dr. Jerry Montgomery

Nov. 10, 2012 – Last December when our 160 Battle Company soldier/sons deployed for their year of duty in Afghanistan, I saw an amazing thing.

Like many of us, I suspect, I had been looking at these young men as just that, “young men.” They were embarking on what probably would be the great adventure of their lives. Some of them would probably die because they faced the real danger of fighting a war. Two of them died.

These young men are infantry soldiers who actually are the boots on the ground, proud of their skills, confident that they are the best trained infantry soldiers in the world and like most young folks, fearless.

Yes, I expected to see some hints that fear was present when they left. It probably was, I suspect, but it wasn’t apparent.

Instead, as I read their many Facebook postings, the main fear among them – always expressed by these proud young men in discreet language that required careful reading – was that they would be forgotten. In fact, they expected to be forgotten by Americans long before their year in battle was even over.

Since they left, I’ve wondered why these young warriors would be afraid of being forgotten. They are the embodiment of Isaiah’s description of a warrior:

“The Lord goes out to fight like a warrior: he is ready and eager for battle. He gives a war cry, a battle shout: he shows his power against his enemies.” (Isaiah 42:3)

Why should they be afraid of being forgotten?

It’s a fear I intend to vanquish from their hearts … and with the help of many folks, like the our volunteer partners who sit in the pews of University Congregational UCC and in many other communities across these United States, that is indeed coming true. They will NOT be forgotten.

Forgotten?

They will never be forgotten by their family or friends and maybe a few acquaintances from their hometowns, of course.

But sadly I fear that the rest of America will soon forget them and all the others who have fought America’s wars in this 21st century. These soldiers remember their dads, uncles and grandfathers coming home from Vietnam and being dishonored for doing their duty … and then immediately being forgotten by America.

I doubt that anyone had ever said something so clear to these Battle Company soldiers but nevertheless to them the message of forgotten soldiers was clear.

All of that suggests to me that our greater community has nearly forgotten what Veteran’s Day actually represents.

When I was a young man in the Navy in the 1960s, as a nation we remembered November 11th as “Veterans Day” as a day to remember fallen American soldiers in World War I and eventually it was expanded to include the service men and women who died in World War II. In the years following the Vietnam War, remembering things military wasn’t very popular and Nov. 11th received scant attention. Until recent times, this particular holiday has been one of the few ‘holidays’ to be unsullied by commercialism. Newspaper ads this weekend show another new low in advertising and retailing standards.

World War I – known at the time as “The Great War” – officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, in the Palace of Versailles outside the town of Versailles, France. However, fighting ceased seven months earlier when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. For that reason, November 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of “the war to end all wars.”

In 1975, President Gerald R. Ford signed Public Law 94-97 (89 Stat. 479), which returned the annual observance of Veterans Day to its original date of November 11, beginning in 1978. This action supported the desires of the overwhelming majority of state legislatures, all major veterans service organizations and the American people. – U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs

Restoration of the observance of Veterans Day to November 11 not only preserved the historical significance of the date, but focused attention on the main purpose of Veterans Day: A celebration to honor America’s veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.

At least the folks of University Congregational UCC and others who have shared the Battle Company Project with Ruth and me for the past year won’t forget today’s soldiers quickly or easily.

Why? Because our soldiers are not anonymous figures without names or families or hopes or dreams or all those other things we find to be good.

They are real men who did hard, dangerous work in a faraway place. Their boots have Afghan dirt in the soles. Their Multicam uniforms which were so fresh and new last December have come home faded. They enjoyed our notes and care packages. They connected with us in new ways service members of my generation can hardly imagine. They were far from home but constantly in touch with us via that new-fangled thing called the Internet. And, most importantly, all but two of them came home alive.

The only thing Ruth and I have done – other than be willing to care for them, or about them, without reservation or limit; and to love them as our sons – is learn their names. These young men are real; they have families, spouses, children, friends, hopes and dreams, histories and hometowns, and a lot of all the stuff we find in our own sons and daughters.

The Battle Company soldiers left as a single group. They came back a year later in four small groups. It’s was a long year.

The youngsters who left us a year ago have come home as buff, mature and changed men. Yes, there still is a bit of ‘boy’ in each of them and for that detail, I’m grateful.

Sgt. “Grizzly” Adam Flechsig and Spc .Justin Walker on patrol


To illustrate, let me tell you about Spc.Justin Walker. We stored his car and a lot of stuff from his barracks room for the past year. During the late winter here, I spent a few days cleaning out his car, packing Justin’s ‘stuff’ into plastic storage containers. A flat tire from the final hours before deployment was replaced for him; gas was in the tank and it was ready to roll.

Within a few hours of arriving at McChord Airfield, he and another soldier, Pfc, Uriel Velazquez, were in our home grinning from ear to ear.

We talked and shared stories, of course, but the part of that afternoon that gives me pause and hope was the fact that Justin just couldn’t stop hugging me. He was really glad to be back and for me it felt so good to be bear-hugged many times.

Justin was a sort-of scrawny teenager with a perpetual grin when he left. When he returned, I was hugged by a real man, a real man who had spent a year running UP mountains carrying a weapon and wearing 70 pounds of body armor. He had been hiking (the Army calls that foot patrol) many miles each week and fighting a war FOR ME. And his grin was just as bright and wide as ever.

Just to make sure he kept his head squarely on his shoulders during his down time in the middle of a war, Justin had fun with his buddies. They had a mustache-growing contest. Like many of his buddies, Justin many days spent a couple of hours working out in the ‘gym’ at their forward operating base.

So what comes next for him and the other soldiers of Battle Company, for me and Ruth, for wonderful folks who have participated in the Battle Company Project with us, for the folks of University Congregational UCC, and for all Americans?

I can confidently assure Justin and the rest of the Battle Company soldiers that we will NEVER FORGET them, nor anyone who preceded them in military service. Nor will we ever again be so trite as to trivialize the deaths of those service members who have died in service to their nation over the years.

The media of today will treat November 11th with appropriate politeness but with little passion and almost no military experience among reporters and editors.

But for me – and I hope for all who may read this – Veterans Day always will be a day of remembering all veterans and honoring those who died in service to their nation. It is, for me, a very important day, especially for our Battle Company soldier/sons who are veterans-in-training.

We will remember, in particular, the lives of two Battle Company soldiers who lost their lives in service to their nation this past year: Sgt. Michael A. Ristau and Pfc. Jon R. Townsend.

Thank you veterans Thank you veterans.