'Someone has to show appreciation'
August 27, 2009
- 79-year-old retired sergeant major greets greets Soldiers deploying and redeploying
- "We're a nation at war, Everybody has got to be brought together," said Greene
- "I'll be here till this whole thing's all over. "
FORT BENNING, GA - One by one, CSM(R) Virgil Greene greets the U.S. personnel walking out the door, shaking each hand as if it were the first. ItAca,!a,,cs become a weekly ritual for him, a CONUS Replacement Center chaplain and unit leaders.
Since early 2007, the 79-year-old highly decorated Soldier, who fought in Korea and Vietnam, has never missed a deployment or Freedom Flight at Lawson Army Airfield. HeAca,!a,,cs met thousands of U.S. troops, Department of Defense civilians and military contractors headed to and returning from 36 different countries as part of the war on terrorism.
Aca,!A"I owe it to these people,Aca,!A? Greene said Friday as about 270 departed Freedom Hall during the CRC battalionAca,!a,,cs weekly mission.
Aca,!A"In my war service, I never got a handshake from anyone, except my family. People just didnAca,!a,,ct seem to care Aca,!" and someone has to care and show appreciation for what these people are doing over there. I tell them how proud I am of their service.Aca,!A?
To put it in perspective, Fort BenningAca,!a,,cs CRC Aca,!" the only one left in the Army Aca,!" handles about 36,000 people annually in the rotating cycles, said MAJ Mark Kottka, the battalionAca,!a,,cs executive officer. Departures to Kuwait take place each Friday, while the return flight arrives on Sunday afternoon.
Aca,!A"Every week, Sergeant Major Greene arrives at Lawson Army Airfield well before the departing and returning Soldiers who process through the CRC,Aca,!A? Kottka said. Aca,!A"Then he mingles with the troops, chewing the fat, trying to place their minds at ease before they depart or welcoming the Soldiers home and personally congratulating them for a job well done.
Aca,!A"His positive attitude, friendly smile, firm handshake and words Aca,!A| have had long-lasting positive effects. His efforts show a selflessness that is hard to find in this ever-hectic world we live in.Aca,!A?
Greene was drafted in 1951 and got pulled into the Ranger Corps while serving in Korea. After the war, he took a two-year hiatus but returned to active duty in 1956. He completed three tours in Vietnam with the U.S. Army Special Forces.
Among 38 total decorations, Greene earned two Silver Stars, four Bronze Stars with Aca,!A"VAca,!A? device for valor and the Army Commendation Medal with Aca,!A"VAca,!A? device on four occasions.
After retiring from the Army in 1979, he spent another 19 years in the civilian work force. Greene now lives in Phenix City, where he is the mayorAca,!a,,cs military liaison to Fort Benning.
Greene, who was the 3rd BrigadeAca,!a,,cs command sergeant major when it was still in Germany, started volunteering at unit activities after the brigade moved to Kelley Hill. In 2004, he became an honorary sergeant major with the brigadeAca,!a,,cs 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment.
In early 2007, Greene said CRC commanders asked him to review the deployment processes and arrangements at Harmony Church and Freedom Hall.
Among improvements at Harmony Church, he arranged for an upgrade to the unitAca,!a,,cs dining facility and played a role in setting up the Religious Learning Center. At Freedom Hall, he suggested replacing meals-ready-to-eat with a contracted hot-food line and was instrumental in getting the USO involved during deployments.
A week after his first visit to the terminal, Greene was named a CRC honorary command sergeant major.
He said he doesnAca,!a,,ct differentiate between military member and civilian or contractor.
Aca,!A"Our progress would not be as far along without the DoD contractors,Aca,!A? he said, Aca,!A"because they are taking positions that would have to be filled by active-duty Soldiers Aca,!A| WeAca,!a,,cre a nation at war. Everybody has got to be brought together.Aca,!A?
Greene said he lost track of how many service members, civilians and contractors heAca,!a,,cs encountered at Freedom Hall in the past 32 months.
Aca,!A"I shook so many hands now that people will say, Aca,!EoeYou told us youAca,!a,,cd be here when we got back,Aca,!a,,cAca,!A? he said. Aca,!A"IAca,!a,,cll be here till this whole thingAca,!a,,cs all over. Hopefully, itAca,!a,,cs over soon, but we want to win it, too.Aca,!A?