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OP-ED: From grateful soldiers on the frontlines
December 07, 2013, 05:00 AM By Lt. Col. Eric Lopez

Lt. Col. Eric Lopez, left, and Command Sgt. Major John Morales, right. Lopez is the battalion commander and Morales is the senior non-commissioned officer in the battalion.

In June of this year, soldiers in my battalion, the 2nd Battalion of the 2nd Infantry Regiment from Fort Knox, Ky., deployed to Zabul Province, Afghanistan to train, advise and assist members of the Afghan National Security Forces. Our assigned mission was to assist our partners during their transition to an independent, trained and competent security force. Their ability to successfully protect the Afghan populace and preserve Afghan sovereignty would serve as our culminating achievement. Each day we are engaged with our counterparts and each engagement displays their growth as a professional military force.

When we deployed, we recognized we would miss the holiday season with the timing of our departure, but we understood the importance of our mission and accepted the sacrifices associated with our choice to serve in the military. As a commander, I was extremely proud of the young men and women in my formation willing to pay such a high price because of their calling to serve. As an American, I was humbled to be surrounded by intelligent, physically fit, intuitive, creative and disciplined patriots ready and willing to serve on behalf of their families, friends and countrymen. History will one day praise this generation of warriors and identify them as “America’s Strongest Generation” because of their willingness to volunteer, serve, and sacrifice during the nation’s longest era of persistent conflict and military actions.

Recently, another corps of great Americans from Hillsborough, San Mateo and areas around the Peninsula decided to recognize our efforts. We were overwhelmed by the generosity, kindness and gratitude represented by more than 200 care packages along with countless thoughts and prayers. The packages arrived the day after Thanksgiving and gave my battalion a tremendous morale boost during one of the more difficult periods of a deployment. I am grateful for caring and supportive Americans who take time to lovingly pack boxes for soldiers they may never meet. I was once again humbled to witness the depths of patriotism that still exists in the greatest country in the world.

Specifically I would like to thank the Hillsborough Police Department for organizing the event and the San Mateo City Clerk’s Office for their contributions. Comprehensively, I would like to convey my appreciation to all those who donated money, helped pack boxes, write letters, complete U.S. Postal Custom Forms and, most importantly, offered soldiers in my battalion emblems from a grateful nation. Thank you.

Lt. Col. Eric Lopez is the battalion commander for 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division from Fort Knox, Ky. The unit, affectionately known as the “Ramrods,” is partnered with more than 3,000 Afghans serving in the Afghan National Security Forces. They will redeploy to Fort Knox in the spring of 2014.



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