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Honoring Rock Hill’s home front: Military Spouse Appreciation Day

Approximately 160 members of the the SC National Guard 178th Engineer Battalion returned to Eagle Aviation at the Columbia Metropolitan Airport in May 2013 after being deployed to Afghanistan since August 2012. Sgt. First Class Scott Harris of McConnells hugs his daughters Amber, from left, Hayle and Marena Friday in Columbia.
Approximately 160 members of the the SC National Guard 178th Engineer Battalion returned to Eagle Aviation at the Columbia Metropolitan Airport in May 2013 after being deployed to Afghanistan since August 2012. Sgt. First Class Scott Harris of McConnells hugs his daughters Amber, from left, Hayle and Marena Friday in Columbia. aburriss@heraldonline.com

The combat weapons and military construction vehicles were pushed to the back of Rock Hill’s Army National Guard armory on Friday to make room for something far more important – sashes and signs honoring the “queens” and even a few “kings” who are married to the unit’s soldiers.

Friday was Military Spouse Appreciation Day. In South Carolina, even the governor is a military spouse. Nikki Haley’s husband spent a year in Afghanistan in 2012 and 2013.

Rock Hill’s armory – headquarters for the 178th Combat Engineers – was one of five around the state to hold events for the thousands of guard spouses who have held down the home front during deployments since the 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington prompted the deployment of soldiers throughout the world.

More than 600 soldiers from Army National Guard units in Rock Hill, Fort Mill, Chester and Lancaster served tours in Iraq, Afghanistan, Africa, Kosovo, and on homeland security missions in the United States and abroad.

“We could not do what we do in support of our state and nation without the love and support of our military spouses,” said Maj. Gen. Robert E. Livingston Jr., the state adjutant general. “With service comes sacrifice. It is that unsung sacrifice of the military spouse that truly keeps us strong.

“We cannot thank them enough for all they do for us.”

When area soldiers were guarding convoys, training soldiers in the Afghan and Iraqi armies, and working on construction projects during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, their spouses had to handle all the work at home. Most National Guard soldiers are part-timers who leave jobs and families when deployed to active duty.

Deployment means that the spouse left at home has to handle all the parenting duties and everything else for months or years. Many soldiers have been deployed twice, and a handful were deployed three, four, even five times.

The 178th unit’s Family Readiness Group, led by Rose Lemmons-Berry and Anne Cash – both wives of combat veterans – prepared the armory Friday for the party to honor the spouses, complete with the sashes and other ways to show that the spouses are never forgotten.

“We love our soldiers, and when our soldiers were deployed it was these families at home who had to keep things together,” Cash said. “These spouses – most of them wives – they are heroes, too.”

Andrew Dys •  803-329-4065

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