News: Community gathers to honor soldiers after yearlong deployment
WILLISTON, N.D. - The Williston community, families, friends and loved ones all gathered Sunday to attend a Freedom Salute to honor more than 90 soldiers with the North Dakota National Guard’s 818th Engineer Company (Sapper), who returned to North Dakota at the end of March The ceremony was to formally welcome home the soldiers who deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom as part of Task Force War Hammer from June 2012 to March 2013. They served as combat engineers, clearing routes of improvised explosive devices to protect coalition forces, ensuring safe movement and mission accomplishment.
“The men and women of the 818th did an outstanding job while deployed to Afghanistan,” said Gov. Jack Dalrymple. “They accomplished an impressive amount of work and upheld the North Dakota National Guard’s proud and distinguished record of service to this nation. We owe them and their families a debt of gratitude for their valiant service and selfless sacrifice, and will never forget all they have done on our behalf. We will also never forget Sgt. 1st Class Darren Linde and Spc. Tyler Orgaard for the ultimate sacrifice they made in the name of freedom, or the families who continue to mourn their loss.”
Linde and Orgaard were killed in action during a mission, Dec. 3, and Spc. Ian Placek was wounded in the attack and has since returned to Bismarck to continue his recovery.
“I am humbled by your selfless service and proud of the accomplishments you’ve made during your deployment. Each of you shares a bond that will unite you forever through the experiences and memories you’ve shared,” said Maj. Gen. David Sprynczynatyk, North Dakota adjutant general. “I know today comes with mixed emotions, as the Guard family continues to mourn the loss of your brothers. Just as you did on your missions, continue to carry their memory and legacy with you. Honor their service and sacrifice with how you continue to live your lives.”
Linde and Orgaard will be added to the global war on terrorism memorial during a ceremony in Bismarck, March 22, at 6 p.m.
While deployed, the 818th supported three U.S. Marine Corps battalions, conducted route clearance operations across three regional commands, conducted 201 patrols, cleared 12,165 kilometers of road, and neutralized 30 improvised explosive devices, ensuring safe passage for coalition forces and local nationals. In addition, the Soldiers were called upon numerous times by the Marine Corp Commands operating in Helmand province to be their primary route clearance element over any other company.
Capt. Robert Bohl, of Flasher, N.D., 818th company commander, thanked the community for their support, as well as the families and employers of the 818th soldiers.
“It is their support that contributed to the 818th mission success. We continue to remember our fallen soldiers and their families. They will never be forgotten,” he said.
Sgt. Maj. Rashad Schaffner, of Dawson, N.D., serves as the unit’s senior enlisted leader. Nearly half of the Soldiers in the unit had previously deployed. A third volunteered to join the unit specifically to serve on the Afghanistan deployment.
Dalrymple, Sprynczynatyk and Chief Master Sgt. Gibson, the NDNG senior enlisted leader, all thanked the soldiers’ employers, saying that without their dedication to duty and support to our state and nation, the North Dakota National Guard would not be as successful.
Sen. John Hoeven, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp and Rep. Kevin Cramer thanked the Soldiers and their families during the ceremony, as well.