CAMP ADAZI, Latvia - As the streets throughout the capital are consumed by the hustle and bustle of daily traffic, at the Latvian War Museum in Riga, Latvia, locals pause for a moment to remember the Soldiers who sacrificed everything to make that possible.
U.S. Paratroopers assigned to Chosen Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, joined local citizens and NATO partnered Latvian forces Nov. 11, 2016 to observe Lacplesis Day. Lacplesis Day, named after the Latvian national epic, recognizes the history of Lativa as its people sought to gain their freedom during the Latvian War of Independence solidifying Latvia's status as a sovereign nation.
Each year, the victory is marked by celebration as well as honor for the soldiers who lost their lives defending Latvian independence.
The "Sky Soldiers" of C Co., 2nd Bn., 503rd Inf. Regt., are on a training rotation in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve, a U.S. led effort in Eastern Europe that demonstrates U.S. commitment to the collective security of NATO and dedication to enduring peace and stability in the region.
"This is good for our Paratroopers as they get to understand more about the culture and more about the people they are working with," said 1st Lt. Gabriel Lloyd, platoon leader, C Co., 2nd Bn., 503rd Inf. Regt. "It serves as a great educational opportunity for them. I also think it builds a stronger civic bond between our two countries. It promotes understanding and it lets us participate in a shared part of their culture and their history."
Outside the Latvian War Museum, Paratroopers set up a static display and welcomed curious visitors to get a closer look at standard U.S. weapon systems.
"I think it's important for the Latvian public to know that we are here and to know why we are here," Lloyd said. "We want them to know what capabilities we bring to the table in terms of training and partnering with their forces."
Dozens of people, both young and old, filtered through the display as the 'Sky Soldiers' provided demonstrations and posed for photos.
"We've had a bunch of children come in and it seems like they are all having a great time," said Pfc. Benjamin Anderson, Paratrooper assigned to C Co., 2nd Bn., 503rd Inf. Regt. "I think we're having a positive impact being out here. I also think for the younger people, it's a good way for them to come out, have a good time and see that we aren't so scary."
Lloyd joined the Latvian Minister of Defense Raimonds Bergmanis and other NATO representatives in a fire lighting ceremony outside the Latvian War Museum, as a tribute to the soldiers who died in 1919.
Back on Camp Adazi, just before sunset, Chosen Company formed up alongside the Latvian Land Forces Infantry Brigade bearing candles to be placed at the base of the fallen soldier memorial site honoring the Latvians who lost their lives during partnered operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Paying homage to a significant day in Latvian history, explained Lloyd, provides the Paratroopers with a better understanding of why they are here and the historical context of NATO presence in the region.
"I hope that given the amount of time spent here (in Latvia), we all leave with an affection and affinity for the country, the history, and the people we have worked with over the months," Lloyd said.
The 173rd Airborne Brigade, based in Vicenza, Italy, is the Army Contingency
Response Force in Europe, and is capable of projecting forces to conduct a full range of military operations across the United States European, Central and Africa Command areas of responsibility within 18 hours.
U.S. Army Europe is uniquely positioned in its 51 country area of responsibility to advance American strategic interests in Europe and Eurasia. The relationships we build during more than 1,000 theater security cooperation events in more than 40 countries each year lead directly to support for multinational contingency operations around the world, strengthen regional partnerships and enhance global security.