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Alpha Battery thriving, surviving in Afghanistan
Al Mauro, left, and Lamar Crosby pay their respects to the flag. - photo by Photo by Pat Donahue

Conditions and duties are tough, but the men of Alpha Battery of the 118th Field Artillery Battalion are doing as well as can be expected, participants at Effingham County’s Veterans Day observance learned.

First Sgt. Roger Neal, the first sergeant of the Savannah-based Bravo Battery, related what the members of the Springfield-based Georgia Army National Guard unit are doing more than eight months into their deployment to Afghanistan.

“Now, more than three-quarters of the way complete, Alpha Battery continues to provide outstanding service to our country and the Afghan people,” he said.

The soldiers of the unit, about 100, are doing well in spite of the long hours and conditions, Neal said. They are now preparing for the onset of the Afghan winter and snow — something not often seen during their mobilizations and exercises in south Georgia.

Living conditions are adequate, Neal added, especially for a combat zone and soldiers pass the time watching movies, playing video games or hanging out with each other.

Nearly all Alpha Battery soldiers have had leave or will have it soon, Neal said. Soldiers also are able to stay in contact with loved ones at home and also passed along their wishes for the upcoming holidays.

“They request you keep them and their families in their prayers,” Neal said, “and the same for the soldiers and their families at Fort Hood.”

Neal also paid a personal tribute to the veterans in attendance at the ceremony, which was held at the Effingham County Board of Education auditorium. Rain forced the event to be moved there, the first time that has happened since Veterans Park — the event’s normal home — opened.

But the rain failed to dampen any of the sentiments from veterans and for veterans.

“It is a special day to me and a special day to our nation,” said Lamar Crosby, a retired Army colonel and the event’s master of ceremonies. “We recognize all the people who have served over the years.”

Crosby said Veterans Day this year is particularly poignant for two reasons, including the attack on Fort Hood last week that killed 13 soldiers preparing to deploy to overseas assignments.

“We have a tremendous number of our servicemen serving in combat around the world today,” he said. “And we have the tragedy at Hood, a tragedy none of us could expect or envision.”

Al Mauro, a Vietnam veteran and former Marine, said what has transpired has put Americans “on a roller coaster of emotions.”

Among Vietnam veterans, Mauro said, they note how they left for duty as strangers and returned as brothers.

“As a veteran, you never stood alone,” said Crosby, a Vietnam veteran as well. “It’s an excellent reminder for us to think about on Veterans Day.”