The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Editorials

April 9, 2014

Emotional weekend | One military unit recognized, another departs

JOHNSTOWN — It was a bittersweet pill to swallow this past weekend for our area.

On Saturday, members of the 1-104 Attack Reconnaissance Battalion were recognized for their yearlong deployment to Afghanistan in 2013.

But on Sunday, families, friends and loved ones said goodbye to members of the 252nd Engineer Company, who are headed to Afghanistan for deployment.

Both scenes have been played out numerous times in our region since the terrorist attacks on our homelands in 2001, and America’s vow to bring those responsible to justice.

And in some cases, the same soldiers have been involved in numerous deployments since then, helping to bring stability to terror-torn regions overseas.

“You protect our nation and the freedom all of us as Americans hold so dear,” Brig. Gen. John Gronski, commander of the 28th Infantry Division, told those gathered for a “Freedom Salute” ceremony on Saturday at the Army Aviation Support Facility at the John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport in Richland Township.

Also heaping praise on the returning soldiers of the 1-104th was Maj. Gen. Wesley Craig, Pennsylvania National Guard adjutant.

“In my opinion, this unit, given its combat experience, is the best unit of its type in the Army, he said.

Chief Warrant Officer Matt Dill of Southmont, speaking to reporter Patrick Buchnowski, agreed.

“I’m proud to be a part of it,” Dill said.

On Sunday, tears were flowing as soldiers from the Walters Avenue-based 252nd Engineer Company loaded their gear and themselves on buses. Their mission will be to help dismantle four military bases in Afghanistan as American troops continue a scheduled pullout.

“I’m so proud of him for what he’s doing, but at the same time, saying goodbye is so hard,” said Adrianna Harnish of Lancaster, wiping away tears as she watched her husband, Sgt. Abe Harnish, load up for his first trip overseas.

And our community pride was also on display Sunday as many residents lined Bedford Street and Scalp Avenue, waving flags, holding banners and cheering as the motorcade of our departing soldiers passed by.

“We’re just here to show our support,” said James Dolgas of Geistown as he, his wife and two children stood with the throngs of well-wishers.

We, too, are proud to support our troops, both here and abroad, as they protect our nation’s interests and defend our freedoms.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the members of the military who deployed Sunday. We wish them Godspeed in completing their mission safely and await their return to their loved ones.

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