MISSION TO AFGHANISTAN: A day for soldiers to reflect, think of family back home | NevadaAppeal.com

MISSION TO AFGHANISTAN: A day for soldiers to reflect, think of family back home

Steve Ranson sranson@lahontanvalleynews.com
Steve Ranson / Lahontan Valley News Nevada Army National Guardsmen, who are assigned to the 593rd Transportation Company, celebrate Thanksgiving at Camp Phoenix, Afghanistan. Sgt. First Class John Dube of Minden, right, and 1st Sgt. Harry Schroeder of Reno enjoy in some conversation during dinner. Sitting next to Dube, who works full-time for the Guard in Carson City, are company commander Capt. Curt Kolvet of Reno and 1st Lt. Christopher Yell of Elko. Behind Schroeder are lieutenants Chris Jones of Reno and Yelena Yatskikh of Las Vegas.

CAMP PHOENIX — Thanksgiving day provided some needed rest for Nevada guardsmen who deployed to Afghanistan earlier this year. After working six and seven days a week, 12-14 hours a day, most guardsmen kicked back on Thursday to enjoy turkey, mounds of mashed potatoes, stuffing dressing and a smorgasbord of desserts crafted for any palate.Capt. Curt Kolvet encouraged his two platoons to eat together and for soldiers to enjoy their time with one another, which they did; as for the afternoon of football, the televising of any game will not occur until this morning — because of the 11.5-hour time difference — when American servicemen and women may be able to see one of the pro football games. 1st Sgt. Harry Schroeder said Thanksgiving is an important holiday for the guardsmen to connect with each other and to call family back in the states.Kolvet and his command staff invited me to have dinner with them shortly at 1 p.m. Even after midday, the single-file line snaking into the dining facility was long and extended toward Patriot Square, a major gathering place for soldiers and civilians. Most of us either called family early Thanksgiving day, or some waited until Friday morning. Others, including Spc. Kyle Freitas of Minden, attended a standing room church service last night.Likewise, many local guardsmen at Forward Operating Base Shank enjoyed a feast cooked for a king. Bravo Company, 189th GSB Aviation has been at Shank since spring.While Nevada guardsmen enjoyed the rest of the day playing games or watching a movie on DVD, two soldiers worked on individual blocks for a quilt. Both Spc. April Carr and Sgt. Rhonda Simmons have worked on this project for weeks now with the goal of creating at least 150 blocks to be sewn into a quilt that will be presented to an injured serviceman here in country.“The fabric was donated to us,” Simmons explained. “We decide how to put their fabric and colors together. We then send the patterns to a woman in Oklahoma who will sew them together.”Soldiers in the 593rd, along with visitors and soldiers from other units, are contributing to this worthwhile effort by helping Carr and Simmons cut and sew at least one block. Each person who creates a block will have his or her name sewn on the particular block.After lunch, the captain and first sergeant walked with me to the supply office where Carr works. I mentioned to them that both Carr and Simmons wanted me to stop by for a half hour or so, thinking it was to chat about their deployment. Once Kolvet and Schroeder escorted me inside her work area, both smiled and said they would see me later.Simmons then described the background of their project and how dedicated they are to make a soldier’s life better.For an hour, I created my own block, cutting out some patterns and trying to maneuver the sewing machine like my great-grandfather pushing down the gas pedal of a Model T Ford puttering down an old, dusty road. In the end, my stitching passed the ladies’ standards. I conquered the sewing machine and finally completed my block, which Carr and Simmons both gave the thumps up approval.One final thought I would like to share for the Thanksgiving holiday, and it comes from my daughter-in-law, Monica. These are profound words that can describe anyone serving this great nation thousands of miles away from home.“It makes me nervous how close to the action you are but I pray every single day that you are safe. My faith allows me the luxury of comfort. It is hard to find words when I read what you are seeing there and it makes me eager for you to return. Nothing I want to say seems significant enough considering the profound sacrifice you are witnessing. I know you will be home soon, though, to hug your granddaughters and that makes me smile.“It also reminds me to be thankful to the men and women who are currently keeping you and all of us here at home safe. They may not get to come home for the holidays, but their hearts never left their loved ones. That much I am sure of. This glimpse of what it would be like to have our Dad over there is a bit of an eye opener. The price of freedom is more than I can comprehend, and it is made up of so many stories of men and women in uniforms. “So many families missing their family members this holiday and countless others both past and future makes me proud to have a dad who has served so proudly with his family behind him 100 percent.”• LVN Editor Steve Ranson is nearing the end of his trip to Afghanistan, covering Nevada soldiers at Forward Operating Base Shank and Camp Phoenix. Ranson is a retired Nevada guardsman who is making his second trip to Afghanistan.