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National Guard receives Veterans Day spotlight
Danny Burgstiner
Retired Air Force Maj. Danny Burgstiner issues his closing remarks during Monday’s Veterans Day ceremony at Veterans Park of Effingham County. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff
We all have freedom to thank a veteran. Please do so.
Retired Air Force Maj. Danny Burgstiner

SPRINGFIELD — The National Guard stood front and center during Monday’s Veterans Day observance at Veterans Park of Effingham County.

The spotlight shined the brightest on Springfield’s Georgia Army National Guard Armory 1-118th FA, Alpha Battery, which recently completed its fourth overseas deployment.

“The soldiers of Battery A carry on a proud tradition here in Effingham of service descended from the Effingham Hussars, which were organized in Springfield in 1846,” Rep. Jon Burns said during his welcome speech. “Our veterans are a tremendous reminder of the strength of American unity and spirit in a world that often seems divided and plagued by disfunction and distrust. Their humility, service and selflessness should serve to bolster our resolve and focus our eyes on a brighter tomorrow.”

Burns’ words weren’t devoted solely to the local unit.

 “Since the American Revolution, nearly 42 million Americans have answered the call to serve and defend the homeland,” he said, “and today, over 600,000 veterans are proud to call the state of Georgia home.”

Sen. Jack Hill’s remarks also focused on the National Guard.

“From my years in the Guard,  I came to highly respect those who serve for the military skills that they demonstrated but also for that touch of civilian experience that helps them solve problems in real-life situations,” he said. “Today, a guardsmen trains like the active-duty component (of the military), more than likely has up-to-date equipment and is held to the same standard as active duty soldiers. They train at the same places and are called to duty in the same dangerous parts of the world.

“Of course, guardsmen have a duty to the state as well and are often called to state active duty for hurricanes and other natural disasters.”

Hill noted the sacrifices of National Guard personnel.

“They miss family gatherings, birthdays, ball games and many special events, and even holidays as longer deployments have extended to a year and longer,” he said. “Guardsmen can also miss job and promotion opportunities because of their military responsibilities. That obligation of time to train and be prepared can interfere with professional activities as well.”

Hill voiced appreciation for businesses that support employees who serve in the National Guard.

“Not all of them do,” he said, “and that can be a problem. The bottom line is that the National Guard plays a key role in the nation’s defense and in the extension of our military might around the world. But serving has a price and guardsmen accept that price of lost time and opportunity because of patriotism and devotion to duty.

“These same qualities of leadership and service above self pay great dividends not only to military service but to employers and local communities as well.

“We should all be proud of those who serve in the National Guard.”

Georgia Army National Guard Armory 1-118th FA, Alpha Battery 1st Sgt. Demetrius Durden, a member of Effingham County High School’s class of 1998, was the featured speaker. He took the podium after veterans from every branch of the military took a turn to be recognized.

“First, I would like to thank everyone for attending today because none of this could be possible without your help and support,” he said. “I also could not be prouder to be a citizen soldier of Effingham County and the great state of Georgia. As you all know, Alpha Battery, stationed here in Springfield, has a long history.

“Like most Guard units, it has members from all walks of life. We have doctors, teachers, students, EMTs, police officers, firefighters and all kinds of different technicians to include some that are unemployed. Some are fathers and mothers who have answered their state’s and country’s call to service and by doing this they have to leave their family, their job and their loved ones for days, weeks and sometimes months.”

Durden listed some of his unit’s accomplishments during its January deployment to Afghanistan. It established two fire bases.

“These new fire bases enabled U.S. Special Forces and their Afghan counterparts, the Afghan National Army, to have direct fire support against the Taliban and ISIS locations. Alpha Battery alone fired over 2.500 rounds in combat operations, including a direct-fire mission that has not been done since Vietnam.

“The battery destroyed numerous enemy defensive fighting positions and took out an undisclosed amount of enemy combatants.”

Durden proudly reported that everyone in the unit returned home safely, many receiving accommodations for their efforts.”

Retired Air Force Maj. Danny Burgstiner, the master of ceremonies, summed up the event during his remarks.

“Let us never forget the selfless efforts of those who have served, fought and sacrificed for our country’s precious freedoms and liberties,” he said. “We all have freedom to thank a veteran. Please do so.”