The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

Opinion & Letters to the Editor

January 7, 2013

Remembering 27 who didn’t return

Monday, January 7, 2013 — I spent a little time over the holidays looking back at some of the stories I’ve covered during the last three decades of my career.

I get really sentimental around New Year’s Day and it’s as good a time as any to reflect back and look forward.

There was one story in particular that I had tucked away in the memory banks, but haven’t dusted it off lately.

It was from a cold, sunny morning in December 2010.

I was sent to Fort Knox to cover the deployment ceremony of 3,500 young men and women who were preparing for a year’s stay on the Pakistan/Afghanistan border.

The grandstands were full of color and faces.

Those colors were the familiar red, white and blue and the faces were those of the family and friends of these troops who were one plane ride away from the rest of their lives.

While I can’t recall all the names of the soldiers I talked to, I remember one as clear as if it were yesterday.

As proud an American as I am, I would be the last one who could adequately submit myself to the punishing weather and way of life these soldiers have to endure. Not to mention, the idea you may never see home again.

But, I asked this one soldier about those very things.

“It’s just in our training,” I remember him responding. “We know what is ahead and we are ready for it.”

I had already spoken to their commander who said where these troops were going was probably the most dangerous area in which to be sent.

“You just can’t think about that,” the soldier told me. “Yeah, it’s always there in the back of your mind. But, you have to go do your job. We can’t let anything affect that.”

When I asked him if he was nervous about the flight they would take within a few hours, he said not at all.

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