Ferron pledges to support our troops
On June 9 exciting events were happening in Mayors Park on State Street in Ferron. The Utah Army National Guard was on hand with heavy military equipment and large helicopters for tours given by the guard. Ferron City was holding a community garage and bake sale sponsored by the American Legions Women's Auxiliary. Ferron City had prepared the community covenant to be signed, following the program. The city council and citizens demonstrated how the city and the citizens of Ferron have a commitment of support for our servicemen and women in uniform and their families.
Mayor JoAnn Behling said it is an honor and a pleasure to welcome everyone and to invite the Utah Army National Guard to be with them this day. "It is also an honor to have General Tarbet of the Utah Army National Guard with us this day. We appreciate him making the effort to come down to be with us for this special occasion and it is an honor to be invited by the Utah National Guard to become a covenant city. By that I mean a city that will support our military families in any way that we can and show them our respect and gratitude for what they do for us to provide the freedoms that we enjoy, because of their dedication to our country by signing this covenant today," said Mayor Behling.
"It is really a privilege to have the National Guard here. These men and women are from the 211th Aviation Group from West Jordan. They are who we depend upon to keep us free. We are indeed grateful for that. This group includes one of our own Capt. Jeremy Tannahill from Ferron, and he is a pilot of one of the helicopters. We are grateful to have him with us today and that he has done so well," the Mayor stated. The mayor then went on to describe the tour the guard gave the mayor and council members, at the Guard encampment by Millsite dam.
Lou Sansevero led the Pledge of Allegiance. This was followed by a prayer led by Roger Barton.
Mayor Behling then introduced Major General Brian L. Tarbet. Gen. Tarbet has a son deployed to Afghanistan who will soon be coming home. Major General Tarbet has been the Adjutant General of the Utah Army National Guard since Oct. 1, 2000. He is responsible for the 7,000 soldiers and airmen of the Utah National Guard.
Gen. Tarbet said, "I have been privileged to be a soldier for four decades and it is a privilege to be here this morning with these wonderful guys from the 211th an outstanding unit and I'm grateful to be here. I want to thank this lovely town of Ferron. No one wears their heart on their sleeves like these small towns that love their soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines. All those who have family members serving or who have served in the military please stand up. These are the real heroes folks. These families that support and love our troops.
"I was recently in Afghanistan to visit our soldiers, and I had the opportunity to fly with my son and with Jan Hess's son, who flew me all around Afghanistan that day. I told her I was counting on her son to get my son home safe. It's going to be a great privilege next Monday to go down to Texas to get them off of the plane. They have served well, but I want you to remember this as the sun rose over Emery County this morning, there are 400 Utahns at war. Four hundred of our fellow citizens are at war this morning in some very difficult places. There are another 150 that we are going to put on a plane on Wednesday and send them. So we need to remember them. We need to remember their families. I know you will. These community covenants that we sign, this is really sort of an after thought because you don't need to sign a piece of paper to support and love our troops. You have been doing it for years. We acknowledge that and thank you for it. We do appreciate it.
"I know these lovely ladies from the American Legion. I had a chance to visit with them this morning. I know how many packages you folks have sent over the years to support our troops. I want to give a warning to all you politicians as well. Obviously Tannahill is coming down here for a reason. I think he wants to come down here and run for office. I just want to warn you. If he's as good as some of the other politicians you have down here. He will be fine. I have the privilege of working with Mike Mower on a daily basis, one of your native sons. He is a great representative of this community.
"I simply want to say thank you to all of you for the support, the love and the prayers you give our troops. To thank you very much for what you have done and what you will do for them. It is an honor to be with you this morning," said Gen.Tarbet.
Mayor Behling said, "It is an honor and a privilege to have you with us here this morning." She then introduced Sgt. First Class Palmer of the Utah National Guard to read the covenants. He has deployed three times out of the 222 Artillery from Richfield and he is currently working with the family support arm of the National Guard promoting the Community Covenant Program.
Palmer said, "On behalf of the service members, service member veterans community and, especially, our families. I thank the leaders and residents of Ferron for the support, especially today as you gather to sign this document. From this time forward we hope to have a long-standing relationship with Ferron.
"The community covenant is a formal declaration of the support to service members, veterans and their families in all branches and components of the armed services who live inside or will visit this community. It is a grassroots program designed to allow the leaders and residents of the community the opportunity to become educated and then act upon the complex issues affecting military families.
"We have the document here. This document when it is signed and framed will be displayed here in the Ferron city offices and in the Utah National Guard headquarters, so that we will all be reminded of the commitment that we are making today.
"I will first read the Ferron Covenant Document and then call for the signers. Together we as residents of Ferron are committed to building strong communities. We of the community recognize the commitment service members and their families are making every single day and the strengths of the service members comes from the strength of their families.
"We of the community recognize that the strength of families is supported by the strength of the community and the strength of the community comes from the support of employers, educators, civic and business leaders and its citizens, and the strength of the citizens comes from and through service to one another. We of the community are committed to building partnerships that support the strength and resilience and readiness of service members and their families. We of the community are committed to provide utilities to the families of deployed soldiers and to promote community awareness of the needs of military families and promote volunteerism and acts of service to meet those needs. Furthermore, we of the community of Ferron thank all those men and women and their families for their service to our country, our state and our community. The community is committed now and forever to love, support and respect our service members and their families.
"Signed Mayor JoAnn Behling, Council Member Ronnie Bloomer, Council Member McCall Fuller, Council Member Trent Jackson, Council Member Abby Jensen, Council Member Joe Trenery and Major General Brian Tarbet," concluded Palmer. The mayor invited all to sign the Covenant.
The Ferron Elementary Liberty Kids then sang God Bless America. These kids had to do special things to earn the honor of being called Liberty Kids. Their music leader was Suzanne Larsen.
Mayor Behling introduced Command Sgt. Major Steven L. Thornton retired who was born in Murray and raised in Lehi. He enlisted in Lehi in 1976 and in August of 1999, he was selected as the 1457th Security Group, Command Sgt. General and appointed to the CSN on Oct. 1, 1999. He was deployed to Baghdad in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in June of 2005. He was selected to join the 115th engineer Corps, which is construction, as Command Sgt. Major where he finished his 30 year career. He has worked in Utah's underground coal mines since 1980. He has a lovely wife named Debbie, one daughter and one son, two grandsons and one great-grandson.
Thornton with his wife Debbie at his side said, "It is a privilege to be here. I appreciate the opportunity. This is my wife Debbie. She is more of an expert on how to take care of families. I was asked to come and speak about how to take care of the families of soldiers who are deployed. I don't think I can do that because I was the guy who was deployed, however, Debbie gave me some suggestions. We will try between the two of us to give you as a community, some ideas on how to support the families that are left behind.
"To give you a little bit of history. From a telephone call at 8 a.m. on a Tuesday, by Wednesday morning I was in American Fork. The next week, we were in Fort Lewis. This was in February of 2003. I did not come home until May of 2004 we were gone almost 15 months.
"A lot of things can happen in that period of time. I will tell you that when a soldier leaves home something will break. Something in the household will break. Whether it's a swamp cooler that breaks or a muffler falls off the car and that has happened to Debbie. A lot of times they don't know which way to turn. Family readiness, is a great program, but they're in Utah County. We have one in each armory, but they are not in small communities like we have here.
"Debbie came home one day and it had snowed the driveway needed to be shoveled. When she came home someone had plowed the driveway. That's the support of families. She got up one morning and the car wouldn't start. She called, J&D Automotive. Derri sent guys to the house, found the battery was bad. Went back to the shop, got a battery, came back and got the car started for Debbie. That is support of families. Another time the clutch went out on the truck and Karl Beckstead came and fixed it.
"When Debbie got ready to water the lawn and found the lawn sprinklers were broke another friend Lynn Wardell was there to fix the problem.
"One time Debbie was nervous and she called the Sheriff's Office and they said, 'how about a few extra patrols.' They were there and they were patrolling, it made her feel more comfortable. That is supporting families.
"Energy West gave Debbie half of a beef while I was deployed, they made up the difference in my wages while I was deployed, they maintained my health care while I was deployed. They allowed me the long wall coordinator to come here and speak to you today. That is huge and it is support of families.
"The biggest thing that sticks out in my mind is the day that I came home Main Street and the driveway were lined with American flags. You can't imagine the effect that has on soldiers and families.
"Families are not going to say, hey, I need some help. Just once in a while stop by and see how they're doing, they're not going to tell you, we are Americans. We're proud, we do it ourselves. We are not going to ask for help. The majority of these families are not asking for help, don't hesitate to stop and offer assistance. You could even occasionally take in a meal to them. They would appreciate it. Let them know beforehand so they don't cook another dinner.
"Those are the kinds of things you as a community can do to take care of those families. If you know something is going on and don't know which way to go, call a family readiness guy. Call up to Draper, Gen. Tarbet's folks will get right on it. They are really good about getting people out there to help.
"I will give you a caution: If you see on Twitter or Facebook something bad has happened to a soldier. Please do not call the family give the guard a chance to mobilize their casualty assistance team to contact that family. They are trained to deal with it and it will help that family get through it. We hope that doesn't happen, but please do not call these families. If you see something on Facebook. Let the guard handle it first, or the military.
"I'm going to ask you one more thing that was hard for me when I came home. I don't know how many times I was asked, did you kill any enemy? I will tell you what I told them. No, I did not. I was thankful that I did not, because those that have shot the enemy deal with that fact, every day of their lives. If they want to talk about it, they will. But please don't ask them. Because that is the hardest thing that they ever did, and they are trained to do it. It is just an automatic reaction, but they will still deal with it their whole lives," said Stephen Thornton.
Debbie stated the community was wonderful. "Ferron, Orangeville, everyone that I worked with, were wonderful."
Steven said "I would like to have Mayor Behling come up here. In the military they have a tradition called coinage. There are different military coins out there. General Tarbet has a coin. Those coins are presented to soldiers who do outstanding things. Since I retired, I still have a few of these coins left and I'm going to present one of these to Mayor Behling on behalf of Ferron, because Ferron takes care of soldiers and families. Thank you."
Mayor Behling said, I do appreciate Steven for coming and talking to us. We have been friends for quite a while. I appreciate the service he has given to us. Another one I'm going to ask to speak is Chris Peterson. He has served his country for eight years. Chris is the son of Nancy and Ray Petersen. Chris joined the Marine Corps in 2003, and he served eight years. He recently moved back to Ferron with his wife and he has two sons. Chris is currently serving as the Youth Pastor at the Castle Dale Baptist Church. I have asked Chris to talk a little bit about his career.
Chris Peterson said, "If I had known when I joined the Marine Corps, that it would've got me into public speaking, I probably would not have done it, because standing here in front of you is one of the most terrifying things I've ever done. There was a time in my life when I would have rather faced an armed enemy than stand up here and read a paper.
"In 2003 I did join the Marine Corps right after high school and graduated boot camp in November. In December I completed my combat training and went to my MOS school shortly after that, I was promoted to Private First Class and graduated from MOS school and they sent me to Japan. I arrived in Okinawa in March. In June, I deployed to South Korea in support of Operation Ok Focus One. They gave me three days training on how generators work. That was not my MOS specialty. While I was over there. I went to places like Seoul, Korea, Capital Corps and Seventh Corps. At Capital One, we ran out of potable water and couldn't get a shave. That was a big deal in the Marine Corps. We weathered a typhoon in pup tents. I was the only engineer in the Command Post. I was in charge of keeping the generators up and running for the communications officer. These were used for communications by satellite back and forth between Buckner and the South Korean military. It was kind of James Bond stuff, like walking into bunkers in the side of mountains. I had never thought they existed.
"In August, I was promoted to the rank of Lance Corporal, and shortly after went up before the meritorious board for Corporal. I supported exercise Bold Eagle. About Dec. 26. 2002 we got a phone call and we were in Thailand on January 1, in support of Joint Task Force 536 Operation Unified Assistance after the South Pacific tsunami. I saw on the flight line caskets stacked four and five high. That is where I got my first lessons in dealing with the press. We ended up patching power supplies, just so Fox news could run their shows. I remember my dad printing off the story from the Internet. In September, I deployed to Australia for training exercises with the Australian Military. I learned there what true friendliness is. I got to pet kangaroos, koala bears and I saw crocodiles.
"In 2006, I was promoted to the rank of Corporal and I was stationed in Yuma, Arizona in April. In May I supported the weapons tactics instructors course for the pilots training.
"In June, I completed advanced marksmanship training and in September, participated in exercise Desert Talon combat maneuvers. When 2007 rolled around, I deployed to Iraq for Operation Iraqi freedom. I served directly in support of the military transition wing. Our job was to train Iraqi soldiers and improve infrastructure. In quarters and at security checkpoints, I met men with resolve to free their nation. This reminded me of stories of our young nation. Men who fought harder and gave more than Americans will ever hear about. They slept in filth, washed and drank out of old water and oil tankers. They would ration their meal portions of bitter tea, rice and goat meat, to share with us the 12 Americans that were there. In September I returned from OIF and felt the fear as we passed piles of trash along the roadside. In November, I was promoted to the rank of Sergeant. In 2008 I was stationed at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. I served on a military funeral detail for one and a half years. That was one of the hardest services I have ever had to do. In 2010, I served as a staff NCOIC of camp affairs until being honorably discharged in January of 2012.
"I once glorified battle and war. I now grieve it. I only give glory to God that I'm here today and I am not the mess that I once was. God is the one and only true spiritual physician.
Mayor JoAnn Behling commented, "I want to thank each of these men for telling us a little bit about their military careers. Jan Hess will now tell us about Operation Home Support.
"I am Jan Hess and Chairman of Operation Home Support which is a program that was started in 2004 by the American Legion Auxiliary of Ferron. This program serves soldiers who are deployed to a combat zone, who have family here in Emery County. When my son Kelly was serving in the 211th in Afghanistan as an Apache helicopter pilot he was a well supported soldier by his parents and brother. Anything he mentioned or wanted or needed was sent directly in the mail to him. He told us that it was really sad. There were so many soldiers at mail, call who went day after day never got a package never got a letter or even a card. I was totally shocked and upset about this situation and wondered what could be done to help. I was president of the auxiliary at this time and took the idea for operation home support to all of the auxiliary members to see if we could organize such a program. They were also excited and the Operational Home Support was born. We have served 78 different men and women soldiers. Several have been deployed two and three times which is not in that count.
"We have sent 527 boxes in eight years. Soldiers get seven to eight boxes a year, and numerous cards on different holidays. A lot of people think that
we only send at Christmastime, but that is not true. We send every major holiday all year long. We have had as many as 22 boxes per shipment and as few as five. We have heard back from most all of our soldiers and received many nice gifts from our soldiers such as flags that they have flown with on
missions and certificates to go with the flags, unit patches, coins, hats, unit pictures and many other treasured items. An Eagle Scout, here in town did an Eagle Project and made two glass front oak cases for us and we keep some of the treasures in those cases. They are full and we are out of room. We now need two more. Perhaps another Eagle Project. The auxiliary has had several of our soldiers come back to our unit and personally thank us and tell us how much it has meant to them to have total strangers take the time to send them boxes, to care for and to be so patriotic to our troops and to keep it up during their whole tour of duty. They love getting the packages from their parents. But it means so much to get these boxes from total strangers. We pride ourselves in that the box is totally full and has no filler in it. That baby is full, it comes out in a lump.
"We have had a couple of super contributors. That have helped us a lot with this program. One is retired Major Marvin Gardner of Castle Dale and the other was Bill Baker here in Ferron who passed away last year. Both of them are veterans and members of Post 42. Our yard and bake sale today is our only fundraiser for the year, so we mainly depend upon patriotic people giving to our soldiers, giving to us to do for our soldiers for the postage and the goodies that go in the box. People give to us all year long, and we greatly appreciate all of the donations, big and small. We are accepting donations for this worthy cause for our soldiers. Let's let them all know how much we care. Thank you very much for your time," said Hess.
The Mayor made a couple of final announcements about hot dogs and drinks available. After the closing song she invited all to come forward and sign the Support Covenant we would like the signature of everyone that is here. The Closing Song was by Shala Pitchforth Osborne and she sang "America The Beautiful."