Sunday, December 02, 2007

This We'll Defend

November 30th, 2007 marked the end of 9 years of military service in the Army for me. I was allowed to spend the last 10 months of that on inactive duty in order to participate in overseas missionary service here in Ukraine. It has been an adventure with many ups and downs, fun times and sacrifices, excitement and losses, but never regrets.

I joined the California Army National Guard with the idea that it would be interesting to be a part time soldier. I had heard all the stories about my father’s time in the National Guard, never imagining that I would end up serving full time on active duty for most of my enlistment and at one point in the same battalion that he served in. As an Infantry soldier I served as a sniper, a Bradley Fighting Vehicle gunner and later commander, a fire team leader, a squad leader at a youth academy, and an instructor for training troops for overseas deployments. My most memorable achievements include being qualified as Expert with the M-24 Sniper Weapon System, taking top team award during a sniper competition, and being selected as Soldier of the Year for the 40th Infantry Division.

The Army took me back and forth across the United States dealing with chemical weapons to hurricanes. I saw several different countries and met lots of interesting people because of the Army. I also was saddened to see the loss of two soldiers from my company who were Killed in Action in Iraq. SPC Daniel P. Unger and CPL Victor H. Toledo Pulido made the ultimate sacrifice.

God has used all of these experiences to prepare me as well as my family for serving the people of Ukraine and making the life giving knowledge of His son Jesus known to as many as possible.

Training Mongolian Troops for service in Iraq (That's me on the right bundled up against sub zero temperatures.)

Interestingly enough, my most cherished moment while serving in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina was not when I met a former President of the United States, but when I met “Buddy”. Buddy was an 85 year old WW II veteran who settled in New Orleans after serving in the United States Marine Corps for the entire duration of the war. I volunteered with a few other soldiers to help clean up Buddy’s property after our regular duty hours had ended. Hurricane Katrina had brought trees and tree limbs down all around Buddy’s home. We spent several humid evenings getting his place cleared of debris and listening to the stories Buddy had to tell. Spending time with an American hero like Buddy made it all worth it.

Me and Buddy in New Orleans, LA

I volunteered once to serve in Iraq, as did my entire company without exception. Those of us who had served a year of duty under Operation Noble Eagle were turned down. When the soldiers from my company that were selected to go returned home from Iraq after 18 months, I was there to meet them when they landed. Some came back wounded and changed from their experience, but they all expressed a similar opinion, “We are making a difference. We’ve seen it”.

While training soldiers for deployment I met one soldier who was going back for his third time. I asked him why he was going back and he didn’t even hesitate to answer. He said he was doing it for the people of Iraq. He said the people of Iraq were thankful for what we were doing. He told me that you probably wouldn’t see it in the media, but he said the majority of Iraqi people were grateful for being liberated from the terrors that they had been subjected to under Saddam Hussein. He told me about the friends he made there and how he wanted to do his part to see that they remained free.

Serving in South Korea as part of a Joint Forces exercise

The Military Forces of the United States are all volunteers. There is no draft in place. Each member of the Armed Forces has volunteered to protect the lives and freedom of the citizens of the United States and in some cases they volunteer to protect the lives and freedom of strangers.

I’m proud to have served with all the Soldiers, Airmen, Sailors, and Marines who have put the freedom of others above their own personal comfort and safety. Please remember them and honor them.

1 comment:

Ethan Larson said...

Congratulations, Greg, on your retirement from the Army! Thank you for serving our country all those years. God bless you all. I am so happy to hear how God is working in your city and in and through your lives.