FORT MEADE, MD., --The Soldier's Creed states that every Soldier stands ready to deploy and destroy the enemies of the United States. Destroying can be considered a primary mission of infantry units. However, recently, Soldiers from First Army Division East's 205th Infantry Brigade, 1-335th Infantry Battalion, recently took on a different mission. It wasn't a mission to destroy, but rebuild. The Soldiers put their skills to use to clean and beautify the Habitat for Humanity's offices in Franklin, Ind.
"Some of my co-workers last year informed me that Habitat for Humanity needed some help with some projects," said 1-335th Infantry Battalion's Sgt. 1st Class Michael Mercer. "I felt drawn to it and have participated ever since."
Making the day a family affair, as well as a community relations event, Lana Schenkel, wife of Capt. Tyler Shenkel and Dylan,Chase and Brayden Blackwell joined their father, Sgt. 1st Class Corey Blackwell . The group helped to beautify the area with their military sponsors.
"They spruced up the outside of the Habitat office," said Habitat for Humanity of Johnson County Executive Director Lee Ann Wilbur. "This included cleaning out flower beds, laying weed barrier, putting out new mulch, planting flowers, tearing apart an old picnic table, replacing the outside faucet and hooking up the water so we now have water on the outside of the office. They also replaced an old rope on our ramp."
"I like helping this great community," said Mercer. "There are many occasions where people come up to me and thank me for my service. I even had my coffee bought for me several times. The civilian population around here is very patriotic and go out of their way to thank us," said Mercer. "It also feels good to give my time to an organization that is committed as much [to the community] as Habitat for Humanity is here in Franklin."
Mercer explained the leadership in his command encourages Soldiers to volunteer their time to the community as a good way for the Army to better partner with the city of Franklin.
"[1-3225th Infantry Battalion's] Sgt. 1st class Patrick Martin and Capt. [Chad] Daniels have done a great job of getting Camp Atterbury involved in Habitat for Humanity projects," said Mercer. "Mrs. Lee Ann Wilbur is an incredible person who has welcomed us into the program with open arms. She is doing amazing things for her community."
Wilbur was quick to return the compliment.
"They [the Soldiers] are wonderful," she said. "They always do a great job. They have great personalities and I am extremely thankful we have such a good partnership. I absolutely love it when we partner with the Soldiers. We are so blessed to have such a great relationship with them."
Wilbur also pointed out; this isn't the first time Division East Soldiers from Camp Atterbury had given a helping hand to the Franklin Habitat for Humanity office. It is a partnership that has grown and produced great results.
"Habitat for Humanity of Johnson County is very fortunate to have such a great partner as Camp Atterbury," said Wilbur. "The Soldiers we work with have helped us build a new house, tear down two houses and work at the office. They give of themselves not only serving our country but also by helping in their community. When my main contact, Captain Daniels, left for Afghanistan one year ago, he left me in the capable hands of Sgt. [1st class] Patrick Martin. Together they have coordinated getting volunteers for everything we have done. We are truly blessed to work with them, and I am honored to call them friends."
Along with Mercer, Capt. Cory Henderson, Sgt 1st Class Nathanial Hanrahan, Sgt. 1st Class Patrick Plyter, Sgt. James Rockhill of the 1-335th participated in the clean up. They were joined by the 2-337th's Sgt. 1st Class Josiah Elzy and Sgt. Brian Gisbrecht, also part of the 205th Infantry Brigade, First Army Division East.
First Army Division East, headquartered at Fort Meade, Md., mobilizes, trains, validates, deploys and demobilizes Reserve Component troops. The division demobilized almost 27,000 service members in support of overseas contingency operations, such as Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation New Dawn, at three mobilization training centers across the eastern United States in 2011.