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NEWS | Sept. 21, 2020

Cav Soldiers recognize Smithfield VFW for support

By A.J. Coyne JFHQ Public Affairs

Virginia National Guard Soldiers assigned to the Suffolk-based Bravo Troop, 2nd Squadron, 183rd Cavalry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team recognized and thanked members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8545 in Smithfield, Virginia, during a unit awards ceremony Sept. 11, 2020, in Suffolk, Virginia.

Bravo Troop and Post 8545 came together under the VFW’s Adopt-a-Unit program. According to the VFW more than 121,000 military and family members are actively supported by VFW Posts and Auxiliaries through the VFW Adopt-a-Unit program.

“It’s been a great program,” explained Sgt. 1st Class William Atkins, Bravo Troop’s former readiness NCO. “They’ve sponsored us for holiday meals and it’s been a win-win partnership.”

April Fisher, the Family Readiness Group Leader of Bravo Troop, proposed to unit leadership the idea of participating in the Adopt-a-Unit program as a way to build esprit de corps within the unit.

“As a lifetime VFW member, I saw the value of getting veterans of the past involved with Soldiers of the present to build camaraderie with our past as well as allowing our unit to come together and realize our purpose,” Atkins said.

Posts participating in the program can apply for and receive grants from their national organization which can then be used for events such as family days, picnics, welcome home and deployment ceremonies and holiday meals.

“Through our partnership we were able to have our holiday meal at the VFW lodge at no cost to the Army,” explained Capt. Justin Harrison, outgoing commander of Bravo Troop. “The unit can only pay for Soldiers’ meals, not family member’s meals, so in order to get those funds and be able to come together and have a holiday meal just really brought the troops together during Christmas time. These guys did an awesome job cooking the Christmas dinner with complete with turkey, ham, side dishes, and desserts. It was delicious and we all had a great time.”

“It’s been a great relationship,” agreed Chris Garrett, a retired Army lieutenant colonel who has been a member of Post 8545 since 2007.  “They assist us when we have events in our community. These guys came out and helped us for some of our events.”

Like everything else, COVID-19 affected the partnership.

“We were only able to work together for six to eight months,” Garrett said, “but it was long enough to meet some great people.”

Bravo Troop conducted a formal change of command Sept. 10 alongside other troops in the squadron. But they conducted their own small ceremony Sept. 11 in order to recognize outgoing leadership, outstanding Soldiers, Fisher, and the members of the VFW. Despite COVID-19 restrictions, unit leadership hopes to figure out a way continue the partnership while the outgoing leaders encourage other units to take advantage of the program.   

“I see it as an overall positive and I would encourage more units to get involved with it,” Atkins said. “So many of them have been overseas in different eras and what they’ve experienced is different than what we’ve experienced. You’re bridging the gap with them and at the same time creating a sense of camaraderie in your unit.”

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