When he deployed to Bagram, Afghanistan, in April of this year, U.S. Air Force 1st Sgt. Robert Donald Wyman had a conversation with his command staff about the perception that the U.S. public doesn’t realize just how many U.S. servicemembers are still deployed to Afghanistan.
So Robert, a member of American Legion Post 1799 in Haymarket, Va., reached out to his father Bob, also a member of Post 1799. That conversation led to what has become a partnership between the post and Robert’s 455th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron (ECES).
“He suggested to me that perhaps our American Legion post could help in that issue,” Bob Wyman said of his son. “It’s a two-way street, in a sense that the folks in the squadron would benefit from any effort that increased public awareness back here in the United States. And of course The American Legion would benefit from having an opportunity to assist our personnel in uniform.”
Post 1799 now provides various support services to the 455th ECES, which provides civil engineer support for the entire airbase. The Legion effort started with something as simple as providing 100 pocket U.S. Constitutions to the squadron to be used to better explain the U.S. mission in Afghanistan.
“After that, it was ‘What can we provide?’ in a still-challenging deployment,” said Bob, a past Post 1779 adjutant and vice commander who serves as chairman of the support program.
The post asked if the squadron would want magazines; the answer was yes, with a focus on history, military topics and outdoor activities such as hiking – “something they cannot do there,” Bob said. “So we’ve had an ongoing collection effort … consisting of printed materials.”
From there, Post 1799 reached out to the Battlefield High School Junior ROTC program, which also is collecting magazines. The JROTC students also sent over videos of the cadets delivering greetings and thanks to the squadron members. And recently, a local preschool that had seen a news release about Post 1799’s program will now send greeting cards and videos of the young children singing to the 455th ECES.
“These airmen over there are brothers, fathers, sisters and mothers,” Bob said. “They’ll all appreciate the information from the little kids, we believe.”
In speaking with his son, Bob said the reaction from the squadron has been very positive. “They certainly appreciated those videos from the high school junior ROTC cadets,” Bob said. “And they like the ongoing printed materials. It’s a distraction that clearly gives them a link back to the states. It’s a matter of bringing public awareness to this.”