September 22, 2014

Elyria
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Veterans giving troops sendoff to Afghanistan

LORAIN — Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 451 will give an estimated 100 National Guard members a going-away party next week as they prepare for a yearlong deployment to Afghanistan.

Post Commander Roger Childs said this appears to be the largest deployment he can recall from the National Guard Armory on Grove Avenue.

“In the first Gulf War we had a lot of local guys in the Navy Reserves who went but they were based in Cleveland,” Childs said. “I don’t recall ever deploying that many troops out of our armory before.”

The troops are members of the 837th Engineer Mobile Augmentation Company.

More commonly known as combat engineers, the unit includes area personnel, along with troops from Columbus, Cincinnati and other Ohio communities.

“They work to clear areas for construction of roads,” according to Don Attie, a Vietnam veteran and junior vice commander of Lorain’s Disabled American Veterans Chapter 20, which is one of a number of veterans organizations including the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Committee supporting the going-away party at 7 p.m. Wednesday at VFW Post 451 on Oberlin Avenue.

“We wanted to get with as many veterans as we could to show our support and wish them well and a safe return,” Attie said.

The event will include food catered by Smith’s Catering in Avon Lake, Childs said.

“We’ve never done something like this, but we’re trying to put it all together for them,” Childs said.

Veteran groups in Lorain and throughout the county made donations for the send-off.

“We had some for $300 and $400,” Childs said.

“The whole county has come together to benefit these troops and their families with a big sendoff,” Childs said.

Calls to the armory were not answered.

Some of the personnel in the 837th served in other branches of the military before joining the Lorain National Guard unit, Childs said.

The unit is set to leave the area at the end of the month for Fort Bliss before leaving the United States for Afghanistan.

The troops are expected to be gone until January or February 2014.

With President Barack Obama having announced plans to end the costly and deadly war in Afghanistan by 2014, Childs summed up the going-away party as a momentous occasion.

“We hope it will be the last deployment from this area,” Childs said.

Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or sfogarty@chroniclet.com.