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In Letter, Adjutant General Praises Oklahomans For Support Of Troops

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Maj. Gen. Myles L. Deering, Adjutant General for Oklahoma Maj. Gen. Myles L. Deering, Adjutant General for Oklahoma

The adjutant general is thanking Oklahoma's Own for coming together and welcoming home members of the Oklahoma National Guard's 45th Infantry.

Maj. Gen. Myles Deering wrote the following letter after the 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team and 146th Air Support Operations Squadron returned from Afghanistan.

The letter to all citizens said we, as a country, learned from the disgraceful way we treated Vietnam veterans upon their return home.

"America got it wrong when they came home to ridicule and scorn... In some ways, we became a better country along the way when we realized that those that serve our nation do it for all of us and should be respected."

April 22, 2012

An open letter to all Oklahomans from Maj. Gen. Myles L. Deering, the adjutant general for Oklahoma:

This week we brought home the final group of Oklahoma National Guard Soldiers that deployed to Afghanistan last June. Like all the homecomings we did over the past couple of months for the more than 3,000 Soldiers and Airmen that deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, it was a joyous occasion with lots of kids, including some very small babies, great music, welcome home placards and lots of American flags.

In reflection after more than a dozen homecomings, it's evident that our Country learned a great deal from how poorly it treated our Vietnam Veterans when they returned from that war four decades ago. I'm humbled by how many Vietnam Vets turned out to support us. America got it wrong when they came home to ridicule and scorn and I hope in some way the Vietnam Vets that saw or read about these homecomings for the 45th got some healing or comfort from it. We can't change the past, but today people all over this State show up to support my Soldiers and Airmen regardless of political persuasion. In some ways, we became a better country along the way when we realized that those that serve our Nation do it for all of us and should be respected. And, for that, my Soldiers and Airmen owe a debt of gratitude to the Vietnam Veteran.

The 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team and 146th ASOS (Air Support Operations Squadron) were very successful during this last deployment. The Brigade operated in some of the most rugged areas of Afghanistan and conducted operations in places where the locals hadn't seen any foreigners since the Soviets left there in defeat. Over multiple provinces in southeastern Afghanistan the skill, determination and prowess of the Thunderbirds was recognized and appreciated by friendly Afghans and feared by insurgents committed to keeping Afghanistan a haven for oppression of all types and future terrorists. Oklahoma's Citizen-Soldiers, some of them your neighbors and friends took it to the enemy and demonstrated tremendous courage on a daily basis as they faced down the likelihood of encountering improvised explosive devices, or IEDs. While the future of Afghanistan will eventually have to be left up to the Afghans themselves, the 45th was instrumental in establishing conditions on the ground that will allow the people, not insurgents or those with a desire to harbor terrorists, to decide their own future.

As sweet as it was to bring our Soldiers and Airmen home – 14 of our Soldiers, including the first female Oklahoma National Guard Soldier to ever die in combat, perished during the deployment. Spc. Sarina Butcher of Checotah, Okla., was only 19 when she was killed on Nov. 1 in Paktia Province. Like so many that serve today, she joined the Guard because she wanted to better herself. She left behind a daughter and many family and friends. She went from being a cheerleader to a Soldier committed to defending our Nation. Hundreds gathered at her funeral in western Arkansas before she was laid to rest on a country hillside in a rural cemetery. Each of the 14 Soldiers we lost left an indelible mark on the lives of the Soldiers they served with and in many cases their communities before they deployed. I will remember for the rest of my life the hundreds of people, young and old, that lined the roadways to pay respect to our fallen Soldiers. It was that way all over the state and I know it meant a great deal to the families of our fallen. We drove through communities where teachers let school kids come to the curb to pay their respects as the funeral processions drove by. It made you proud to be an American during some of the darkest and most difficult times last year, but most importantly it showed the families of our Soldiers and Airmen how cherished and respected they are by their fellow citizens.

The majority of training our Soldiers do is conducted at Camp Gruber near Braggs, Okla., including a lot of the preparation the 45th did to prepare to go to Afghanistan. Anyone that serves in the Oklahoma Guard today knows they'll spend time training at Gruber. When Governor Mary Fallin learned last spring that Camp Gruber didn't have a single chapel to conduct religious services for the thousands of servicemembers that train there every year, she took action and found literally dozens of Oklahomans that wanted to help. As a result of her efforts and some gracious Oklahomans that donated a great deal of time, resources and money to the project, a new 10,500 square foot chapel, appropriately named "Thunderbird Chapel" will open in June. Like those that came out to pay their respects to our heroes, the chapel is additional proof that Oklahoma cherishes those that serve.

The road ahead will be difficult for some. More than 200 Soldiers are still receiving treatment and coping with injuries they sustained during the deployment and some will carry the scars of war, some seen, some not, for the rest of their lives. While we will never forget those lives that were lost, we must focus on taking care of and meeting the needs of those that did return. Our Soldiers have access to the best medical care available, should they need it. But many left jobs or transitioned out of college to defend our Nation and are now looking for viable employment. A recent survey of the Brigade indicated that more than one-third of the Soldiers were unemployed or underemployed. It's important that Oklahoma businesses look to hire qualified veterans. My Soldiers and Airmen are intelligent, driven and understand the importance of being committed to a team making them great employees. You shouldn't be afraid to hire a Guardsman because he or she might deploy at some date in the future. You should take advantage of the discipline and commitment already required of them to serve our State and Nation.

I've always felt blessed to live in this State. I grew up in Ada, Okla., and have always considered myself lucky to raise my family here - never had a desire to live anywhere else. For the past 35 years I've been a member of the National Guard and I've always appreciated the kindness and admiration my fellow Oklahomans have shown those that serve our Nation. This past year our State stepped up and showed why so many of us are proud to call Oklahoma home. Thank you for supporting my Soldiers and Airmen through the best of times and the most difficult circumstances. You are why we do what we do – and why some 10,000 of us will put on our uniform and boots next month and report for duty. May God Bless Oklahoma and the United States of America.


Major General Myles L. Deering

The Adjutant General for Oklahoma



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