Supporting troops not just slogan for one community
December 6, 2012
WINNEMUCCA, Nev. (July 21, 2012) -- Gratitude isn't always difficult to find, especially if you happen to be a military unit travelling through Nevada.
Soldiers participating in Operation Golden Cargo discovered many residents, local governments and business owners eager to assist them in a variety of ways.
"Ever since we set boots on ground in northern Nevada, these folks have done nothing but go out of their way to help," said Capt. Edward Lyons, commander of the 1404th Transportation Company.
The Humboldt County School System opened up its junior high school gymnasium to let hundreds of Soldiers stay for the duration of the two-week logistics mission in July. Several times, local eateries provided free food to the troops.
Various businesses gave troops free water and free ice to combat the summer heat. One truck stop allowed Soldiers to take free showers. The Winnemucca Volunteer Fire Department allowed Soldiers to use city fire hydrants to help fill water buffaloes.
"The community has welcomed us with open arms," said Capt. Robert L. Blankenship of Broken Arrow, Okla., who commands the Headquarters Company of the 329th Combat Support Sustainment Battalion. "I can't go anywhere without someone thanking me for my service."
For the 1404th TC, an Arizona National Guard unit, the giving started in Beatty, its first fuel stop after leaving Las Vegas.
Lyons said a woman at the gas station not only wouldn't charge for ice to fill up Soldiers' coolers, she went to work providing enough for the entire convoy.
"They welcomed us like we had just gotten back from Iraq or Afghanistan," he said. "She just started filling up buckets."
In Hawthorne, the scene was repeated when the gas station handed out free cases of water, opened up its ice machines and shut down other pumps so the Army trucks could fill up faster.
Originally, the transportation company was scheduled to stay in the drill hall of the National Guard armory in Winnemucca with other units. When they arrived, the results were crowded.
National Guard Family Assistance Center Specialist Barbara Stanton, who works at the armory, made contact with officials from the county school system. Its superintendent and board of trustees quickly agreed to have the troops stay at the junior high school.
More than 100 Soldiers slept at the gym every night, shuttling to the armory for meals, and parking their trucks in the school's lot. This included troops from the 1404th, 2220th, 222nd and 423rd Transportation Companies.
Lyons said in 18 years of service he had never before seen a community come together and support Soldiers this generously.
"Every day they come down and ask if we need anything," he said.
Bryon G. Krell, the director of maintenance and transportation for the school district, said many enjoyed having the Soldiers around.
"For a lot of people, I think they feel the comfort of having troops here," he said. "I know everyone here appreciates their efforts and what they are doing."
Jose Meza, a restaurant owner in Winnemucca, provided several free meals for every Soldier in the armory after he learned they were in town. His son is a U.S. Army helicopter mechanic serving in Afghanistan.
Meza said, as a result, he knows what military personnel have to go through.
"I don't know how we in this community can say thank you enough for what you do every single day," he said.