AFTON – On May 28, family and supporters of the members of Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 297th Infantry Regiment, Wyoming National Guard gathered at the Afton Readiness center. They were there for the deployment ceremony of their brothers, sisters, spouses, parents and friends. The 297th will be deployed for the next 12 months. First for three weeks of training in Fort Bliss, TX then on to Germany for another three weeks of training, and finally, setting up base in Kosovo as part of a peace-keeping mission.
Corporal Travis Smith, a 2013 NCHS graduate, and his parents, family and friends were there. Smith will be deploying with his unit as a Team Leader. He has been in the guard for five years. When not at guard trainings or deployed, he works full-time for the Union Pacific Rail Road as a work equipment mechanic and lives in Cheyenne with his wife Josie (also a former resident of Lusk) and their three daughters, Braelynn, Adley and Callan.
This deployment drives home the reality for Wyoming residents of the obligations of their citizen soldiers. These individuals are not career military men and women. They do not live on a base or have full-time vocations in the service. They are the friends who we chat with at the community pool or play softball with on a Monday night. Deployment can hit their families particularly hard as they leave behind more than just military obligations. Their willingness to serve the country while juggling a full-time civilian life is what makes the Army National Guard unique. It also makes them especially imperative during peace-time missions providing crucial support for other branches and even for diplomatic relations.
During the deployment ceremony, U.S. Rep Liz Cheney made that the statement, “We are blessed beyond measure that the men and women in this room are among the very best soldiers we have ever seen anywhere today on the globe.” It is obvious from the pride on the faces of Smith’s parents, Terry and Stephanie Smith (formerly of Lusk) that they feel the same way. Even as they try to manage the emotions they feel in a final goodbye video posted by Smith’s wife on her FB page, they remain first and foremost proud of the service of their son .
For the next few weeks Smith will be able to contact his family via Skype and FB but after leaving the US communication will be limited. Josie and his girls are taking his deployment one day at a time and counting the days (and sometimes minutes and hours) until he returns home.
Once Smith has an address the Herald will be sure to post it in our “Hometown Heroes” section and remember, on Friday wear red to support those deployed.