News: Deploying Soldier receives early holiday gift
Story by Sgt. 1st Class Donald Veitch
LOWELL, Mass. – Seventy deploying soldiers anxiously filed from the bus that had brought them across the flight line to the waiting command group and the aircraft that would fly them from Hanscom Air Force Base to their mobilization site at Fort Bliss, Texas, Dec. 6.
The line snaked along with starts and stops as the soldiers, apparently pre-occupied with their own thoughts, hesitated briefly as they acknowledged the general and two command sergeants major waiting to wish them off as they reached the foot of the boarding stairs.
Each soldier is different but all have much to be thinking about as they start a new deployment, especially one starting in the middle of the holiday season. And the soldiers of Battery E, (Target Acquisition Battery), 101st Filed Artillery Regiment, Massachusetts National Guard are no exception.
One soldier in particular had a little more on his mind than how was the mobilization going to affect his family, or what the future had in store for him. His concerns were more immediate and focused on his wife, her labor and the rapidly approaching birth of their second child.
Moments before Spc. Vannek Pech, a radar operator with Battery E, heard his name bellowed down the aisles of the plane he had been one of those soldiers receiving well wishes from the command group as he boarded the aircraft. Instead of leaving with his unit, Pech was being pulled from the plane by the very group that had just wished him a safe deployment.
The command group, consisting of Brig. Gen. Thomas Sellars, commander, Massachusetts Army National Guard, Command Sgt. Maj. David Costa, state command sergeant major, Maj. Carl Gramstorff, administrative officer, 51st Troop Command, and Command Sgt. Maj. Daniel Picard, operations sergeant major, 51st Troop Command, had just heard about Pech’s situation and immediately decided to remove him from the flight.
“It speaks volumes about the quality of soldiers we have in the Massachusetts Army National Guard and their dedication to placing the mission and their unit first that Spc. Pech was sitting on the plane waiting to deploy knowing his wife was in labor,” said Sellars.
“He displayed a high level of commitment to his mission and fellow Soldiers. Not one of those soldiers on that plane would want him to miss this moment.”
Sellars said there was no discussion to be had when he found out about Pech’s situation.
“We have an obligation to support the families of our soldiers and what better time to prove that support than now and under these circumstances,” said Sellars.
“I didn’t expect to be taken off the plane,” said Pech. “ I was expecting some kind of paternity leave down the road.”
Pech was loaded into Picard’s car and rushed off through early rush-hour traffic to Lowell General Hospital where his wife, Leakhena Ian, was going through labor.
“I was happy to be able to give the family back a small measure of what they give to the National Guard,” said Picard.
Pech who is relatively new to the military has been in the Guard four years and was about to leave on his first overseas deployment, but he is no newcomer to parenthood. The couple has a one-year old son named Evan.
“I was here for my son’s birth,” said Pech. “I know she’ll be happy to see me here for this one.”
The young soldier didn’t know that his daughter, Evelyn Pech, was born at 6:07 a.m. and weighed in at a healthy 6 pounds, 9 ounces when he arrived at Lowell General.
I’m grateful to the unit for releasing me to go see my wife and kids and happy to see how much they care for their soldiers,” said Pech.
He might have arrived at the hospital too late to witness Evelyn’s birth, but it wasn’t for a lack of desire or effort. His arrival at Lowell General was so harried and single minded in his mission that Pech didn’t even have time to take off his pack before he scooped up little Evelyn and held her for the first time.
Pech will spend the next few days with his wife, son and new daughter; helping everyone get settled into a routine before joining his unit at their mobilization training site then off to Iraq in support of Operation New Dawn.
For now Pech can spend some time during the holiday season with his family.
The time with his newborn is an unexpected early holiday present, one that makes the season more special, said Pech.