...I am feeling quite a few emotions. Sadness and pride, fear and admiration all mix together upon learning the news that my college roommate and dear friend Chris Neeley has been called to serve in Afghanistan. He will deploy in 3 weeks for a 1 year tour of duty in the most dangerous place in the world. Please pray for Chris, his wife Janie and their two children.
Freedom is a funny thing. A gift for which there is a heavy price, but no more so than on the backs of our soldiers. Soldiers like my friend Chris. We will miss you, but can't wait to celebrate your return. And thank you, Chris.
Here is an excerpt from Chris' letter to family and friend announcing his assignment:
Dear Friends, Wednesday afternoon I learned that I am deploying to Afghanistan for a one year tour starting in three weeks. Like all Guardsmen and Reservists, I knew the day would come when I would be asked to go -- I just didn't expect it to happen so soon. Obviously, Janie and the kids are very upset, as am I. No one in our house slept a wink the last two nights. We will get through this tour. Thankfully, we have a strong family, friend and church network in Columbia that can help us deal with the emotional stress of the separation.
Ok, so what will I be doing in Afghanistan? As I told my son Thursday night, "I will not be knocking down doors." Instead, I will be the Public Affairs Officer (PAO) for the 178th Field Artillery (FA) Battalion for the South Carolina Army National Guard. Our mission is two-fold: Counter-Insurgency and Provincial Reconstruction. As the PAO for the Battalion, I will travel across 13 provinces meeting with local tribal leaders and government officials to continue building relationships on behalf of the United States and our foreign allies. I am confident my political experience will come in handy! I will also be responsible for escorting international and national embedded media outlets in country, producing web based stories and fielding press inquiries from media outlets back home. The 178th FA is one of the most decorated and oldest Battalions in South Carolina. They get their nickname, "The Swamp Fox," from Revolutionary War hero Francis Marion (if you saw The Patriot, then you know Francis Marion). This will be an exciting, challenging and yes, a very dangerous adventure. It will sorta be like camp -- only the bears in Afghanistan shoot back! I will keep you posted on our progress by posting threads and pics on the web.
Feel free to call and write Janie and the kids to offer words of encouragement. They will need a lot of support and prayers while I am gone. I will miss each of you dearly. I look forward to returning in January 2011 as a better Soldier, friend, son, brother, father and husband. I am honored to serve our Country and to follow in the long line of patriotic men and women who have fought to defend freedom around the world. I know the Lord will watch over me during this time of service.
Yours in Freedom, Chris