Local troops from the St. Helens based Bravo Company 741 Brigade Engineer Battalion of Oregon Army National Guard, along with their friends, families and other loved ones, attended a farewell ceremony at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 13 in the gymnasium at St. Helens High School (SHHS). The troops will be deployed to the Middle East this fall.
At the ceremony were dignitaries Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and State Sen. Betsy Johnson. U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley was not able to attend but wrote a letter that was read out during the ceremony.
Others in attendance were Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion Auxiliary, Elks Lodge, Elks Veteran Bunk, American Heritage Girls, Daughters of the American Revolution, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, law enforcement and first responders.
During her speech, Gov. Brown thanked both the troops and their military families.
“Please know that we are extremely grateful for your service,” Brown said.
In her speech, Brown quoted the philosopher, G.K. Chesterton, who once said, “The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him. He loves what is behind him.”
Brown assured the troops that their families would be cared for by the community while they were gone.
“We look forward to being here to welcome you back home. So go out there and do us all proud,” Brown said.
Sen. Betsy Johnson talked about the importance of the National Guard.
“Over the summer, when Portland was on the edge over some civilian protests, the National Guard was put on standby,” she said. “The National Guard is on standby means something to the public. It means reassurance.”
Johnson said the soldiers came from all walks of life, which would serve them in their first deployment overseas.
“You are true citizen soldiers with civilian jobs. Your employers and your civilian coworkers are also part of this because they, too, share the sacrifices by using your services, skills and the jobs you are doing,” Johnson said.
The people who would especially be sacrificing, Johnson said, were the soldiers’ families.
“They will be spending the holidays without you,” Johnson said, and then asked the audience to give a round of applause for the families.
In his letter, Sen. Jeff Merkley mentioned the troops that came before, who also sacrificed in order to protect their country.
“Your service is a continuation of sacrifice,” Merkley said. “As you deploy, know that we stand with you.”