Far from home, but never alone
June 30, 2011
- Watervliet Arsenal inspires community to support deployed National Guard troops.
- When one of the Arsenal's civilian workers deployed to Iraq, the Arsenal was with him.
- 5th Grader tells the Army story, inspires others to remember our troops.
WATERVLIET ARSENAL, N.Y. -- Since the founding of our Army in 1775, Soldiers have not been alone as they marched to the drumbeats of war. Families, friends, and even communities have found ways, albeit bizarre at times, to be part of a Soldier’s sense of duty to fight for the American way of life. Through these connections, support from the homefront has become a combat multiplier, which is as true today as it was 236 years ago.
During the Revolutionary War, it was not uncommon for wives to follow their husbands from battlefield to battlefield. One wife in particular, by the name of Margaret Corbin, was one such follower. She served as many other wives did performing such camp duties as cooking and washing. But whenever fighting began, Corbin would rush into combat carrying water to cool down the artillery cannons, thus gaining the nickname of Molly Pitcher.
During the Battle of Fort Washington in 1776, Corbin’s husband was killed while manning a cannon. Upon seeing the cannon unmanned, she immediately stepped in and continued firing the cannon until she was severely wounded. Although captured by the British, she was treated as a Soldier and paroled so that she could recover from her wounds. She would become the first woman to receive a military pension. And today, she is buried at West Point, N.Y.
She was a combat multiplier.
During World War II, communities across America came together to support their warfighters. Families scoured their neighborhoods to collect goods, such as aluminum foil and rubber, which were needed for the war effort. Additionally, entire legions of the American workforce increased their personal savings at unprecedented rates with a significant portion of their payroll going toward the purchase of War Bonds.
American communities, from Bangor, Maine to San Diego, Calif., became combat multipliers.
Today, in a small bastion of Army presence in upstate New York sits the Watervliet Arsenal. This historic center of Army-owned manufacturing has been continuously supporting our nation’s warfighters for nearly 200 years. And by all evidence today, the Arsenal is grooming tomorrow’s generation of combat multipliers.
Several months ago, one of the Arsenal’s employees by the name of Ken Church was recalled to active duty to deploy with his New York Army National Guard unit the 501st Ordnance Battalion (Explosive Ordnance or EOD). Church is the command sergeant major of this unit.
When Church and his unit deployed, a note went out to the workforce to inform them that one of their own had deployed to Iraq and if they wished to support Church and his team, contact information was provided.
The response was overwhelming. Within days, Arsenal employees and their family members became energized to support the 501st. Arsenal workers enlisted their family members, who in turn enlisted some of their schools. Local children from such places as the Stevens Elementary School in Burnt Hills and the St. Brigids Regional Catholic School in Watervliet have written letters and sent care packages to the troops.
Julianna Fowler, the 5th grade daughter of Michaela Corbari who works for the Army's Benét Laboratories at the Arsenal, truly epitomizes all that is good about this community spirit.
About the time she learned of the 501st’ deployment, she was searching for a topic for her school’s Passion Project requirement. After doing some research about the Army and what it is like to be a Soldier, she put together a PowerPoint Briefing for her class. For nearly 10 minutes, she not only entertained her classmates, she also educated them about our Army. Julianna attends Hillside Elementary School in Niskayuna, N.Y.
Julianna said the most important part of her presentation was to tell her classmates that they had a duty to thank our Soldiers for helping keep our community and our nation safe.
After her presentation, Julianna and at least five of her friends inspired many of their fellow classmates throughout their school to write letters to Wounded Warriors. Julianna also went on to prepare 10 care packages that she and her mother took to the post office, paid for shipping, and sent to the 501st Soldiers.
Julianna said, however, that this wasn’t the first time that she got involved in supporting troops overseas.
“About three years ago, my brother and I wrote about 200 cards and sent them to the troops for Christmas,” Julianna said. “I would have sent more but my hand hurt too much.”
Julianna is not only a combat multiplier today through her maintaining contact with deployed Soldiers, we may anticipate her continued support to generations of future Soldiers.
There has also been overwhelming positive feedback from the 501st regarding the local community’s efforts.
According to Command Sgt. Maj. Ken Church, “When we have support from home, it increases our strength. Military men and women sacrifice their time away from their families to provide freedom and safety to our country and I can honestly say that the folks at home are an integral part of this.”
1st Sgt. Joe Landry, 501st Ordnance Battalion, said that care packages and letters from the Watervliet Arsenal truly reconnect Soldiers with the communities and towns back home. “They (Soldiers) appreciate that family and friends truly care about what they are doing in Iraq.”
And from the commander of Task Force Troy-South, Lt. Col. Rob Mitchell, “The willingness of the American people to support the warrior never ceases to amaze me. I had thought that maybe Americans had grown weary of the conflict and the support for those prosecuting the war had dropped. I’m glad to say that I was wrong, because the community support is nothing short of overwhelming.”
As evidenced by the recent actions of those in the local community, Soldiers should know that when they go off to fight in future wars that this community will be with them. After all, they too are combat multipliers and have been since 1775.