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    Deployed guardsmen visit local orphanage in Poland

    Deployed guardsmen visit local orphanage in Poland

    Photo By Sgt. 1st Class Shane Klestinski | Deployed Florida and Michigan Army Guard Soldiers pose for a photo with children who...... read more read more

    When Soldiers deploy, they can find themselves volunteering for uncommon missions the Army didn’t train them for, and recently, one of those missions gave them an emotional experience they never expected.

    Children at the Gniezno Special Educational Center enjoyed a “play date” with Soldiers of the Florida’s Guard’s 50th Regional Support Group (RSG) and the Michigan Guard’s 1225th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion (CSSB) during a Children’s Day picnic in Gniezno, Poland, on June 9, 2021.

    “The Center operates under the auspices of the Roman Catholic Church, and nuns from the Immaculate Conception of Saint Mary specialize in teaching and caring for the children,” said Małgorzata Szyda-Błaszak, an attorney in private practice who was one of the lead coordinators of the Children’s Day picnic, along with her sister, Anna Szyda. “Some of the children here are orphans, others come from underprivileged backgrounds who may see their parents on the weekends, but live here during the weekdays due to various circumstances. Others have learning disabilities or are dealing with other challenges.”

    Other Soldiers deployed to Forward Operating Site (FOS) Powidz, Poland, have participated in similar events previously, but the COVID-19 pandemic complicated those efforts until recently.

    Szyda-Błaszak said the children look forward to visits like these because a lot of them lack parental attention and relationships that children growing up in more stable living situations enjoy.

    “Visits like these open Soldiers’ eyes to other people’s lives, and they give the kids a fun break from their usual routine,” said Spc. Emilie Ortiz, a religious affairs specialist assigned to the 50th RSG. Ortiz was the lead coordinator for the Army who partnered with Szyda-Błaszak to bring Powidz’s Soldiers to the Children’s Day picnic.

    The 50th RSG from Homestead, Florida, is deployed to Poland to support Atlantic Resolve by providing management and base operations support at various FOS locations throughout Poland and neighboring countries. The 1225th CSSB from Detroit, Michigan, serves as a support element for all exercises within the Atlantic Resolve region by providing resources such as fuel, water, food and maintenance supplies.

    While both of these units are primarily focused on supporting a combat-credible force of rotating NATO allies and partners to ensure security throughout Europe, occasionally there are unexpected opportunities that offer new benefits and different psychological payoffs.

    “Soldiers should do more activities like these because it gets them into the communities,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Jonathan Minix, the 1225th CSSB’s command sergeant major. “Granted, the mission always comes first, but if we’re just stuck on a FOS for the whole deployment, how much are we actually doing for the communities here? Once you get out and see what the local community is like, you get a different perspective that helps you understand why the mission matters.”

    The Children’s Day picnic featured structured activities, such as a tug-of-war, various relay races, and some line dances, during which, the kids taught a few Soldiers the choreography to “Cotton Eye Joe.” The Soldiers and the children also enjoyed a good deal of free time that allowed them to spontaneously interact by playing soccer, shooting basketballs, and competing in races down an inflatable bouncy slide.

    “I’ve never done an event like this before, but it taught me what these kids are dealing with everyday,” Minix said. “Participating in events like these builds relationships between the U.S. Army and the local community. A lot of people in Poland might not know why we’re here, but events like a Children’s Day picnic help us bridge gaps with something we can relate to and talk about.”

    Szyda-Błaszak said that when the kids learned American Soldiers were coming, they were thrilled. The Soldiers noticed the enthusiasm upon their arrival.

    “I felt a real sense of joy when I saw how happy the kids were when we showed up, especially knowing more about their lives,” Minix said. “If I could do these visits more often, I wouldn’t mind staying for a second tour.”

    U.S. Soldiers deployed to Powidz expect to make more visits in the future.

    “Going forward, we’ll continue partnering to coordinate other visits, or maybe expand to visit other orphanages – those plans are still being developed,” Ortiz said. “We’ll also be working with the Military Family Life Center to get donations to bring the kids things like shoes, blankets, candy and toys.”




    Date Taken: 06.09.2021
    Date Posted: 06.21.2021 08:23
    Story ID: 399278
    Location: GNIEZNO, PL 

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