A salute to the 776th Support Maintenance Company

Published 8:49 am Wednesday, February 6, 2019

A hearty salute goes out to the 776th Support Maintenance Company of Elizabethton, which is being deployed to the Middle East for nine months. It is the first time that the local National Guard company has been deployed since 2008-09.
Seventeen years after U.S. troops were sent to Afghanistan in response to the 9/11 attacks, Americans need to be reminded that the war continues.
Operation Enduring Freedom has lasted longer than World War I, World War II and the Korean War combined. Perhaps its longevity bores Americans; the war is infrequently in the news. Maybe the general public is less concerned because only volunteers are fighting for the U.S., along with the multi-national coalition that assembled in 2001; no worries about being drafted. In any case, Operation Enduring Freedom continues to cost American lives and money.
Now that our own men and women — approximately 100 of them — are going to Kuwait for a tour of duty, it brings war closer home. According to the Tennessee NG office, the one-year deployment isn’t unusual. At any given time, some Tennessee Guard members are serving overseas.
The 776th is based in Elizabethton, but has members from all across the state. They are known as our weekend warriors or soldiers.
The 776th is a support maintenance company. Its soldiers have the equipment and training to perform maintenance on most of the Army’s vehicles.
Additionally, families of guardsmen remain in their civilian communities while their loved ones are deployed. In Tennessee, they may be far from a military base and the common bonds of coping with the challenges of deployment. So it’s up to us — the neighbors, friends, employers and civic leaders left behind — to ensure that guard families are supported.
As our guardsmen answer the call to duty, let us unite as Americans to support them. In the weeks and months after the 9/11 attacks, we were all Americans first — political party labels and ideology were secondary.
Now Americans are bitterly divided over way too many things. We forget how good life is here compared with Afghanistan and Iraq where suicide bombers strike and kill weekly — if not daily. The 776th members aren’t complaining, but we note that they are spending almost an entire year in a climate much harsher than Tennessee’s and they won’t really get a day off. There’s no safe place to relax off-base in a land where Taliban and Isis militants are continually fighting the government and even infiltrating the ranks of police and army forces. There will be Tennessee birthdays, anniversaries and holiday celebrations missed.
These Elizabethton men and women are models of service and sacrifice for the rest of us. We salute these citizen soldiers who will be leaving their families and friends behind as they serve their country, putting themselves in harm’s way to fight in the global war on terror.
Government service is not easy, and we wish them the best.

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