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Special to the Opelika Observer

Soldiers of the 135th ESC return from deployment

By Michelle Key
Editor

Families welcomed home their loved ones last Wednesday when the soldiers of the 135th Expeditionary Sustainment Command returned home from their almost yearlong deployment.
The unit was deployed last June just days before Father’s Day as part of Operation Enduring Freedom (Spartan Shield).
Members of the 135th ESC provided vital ground, sea and air services throughout their area of responsiblity which encompassed 10 countries.
Opelika resident Capt. Elijah Beaver, pictured left, was one of several members of the community that was welcomed home last week. Many spouses must learn to take on roles in their loved one’s absence. “The most difficult part of deployment as a spouse is shouldering the entire mental load for the whole family without being able to rely on the strengths that my husband would usually contribute and getting to the point where I’m willing to accept the ‘new normal’ and ask for help from others when needed,” said Beaver’s wife Erin.
“Where most active duty military families generally have a military community around them to support and empathize with them during deployments, this is not so for the families of the Alabama National Guard, who are scattered all over the state and are not full-time military until they are deployed. This deployment was easier because there were other families local to the Auburn-Opelika area whose loved ones were deployed with my husband, and even if it was just moral support, it was great to know that there was a sympathetic ear nearby,” Erin explained.
She added that the key to making it through deployment is community.
“We had neighbors come and mow the lawn, who helped me take care of car issues, who ran to the grocery store when we were sick or stuck in the house on snow days, church family and friends who would cook supper for us on occasion and pray for us, an employer who made sure that I could be present for all my kids’ school awards days and other parent involvement activities, and my own mother and sister who would help watch the children so that I could take the older kids to scouts or birthday parties or other activities to keep life as normal as possible,” Erin explained.
Maj. Clemon Byrd of Auburn is also a part of the 135th ESC. He stated that “receiving calls, mail and care packages is always good. My wife, Alison, mother, Elizabeth Barnett, sister, Terri Welch, and cousin, Kevin Radford, were great support elements while I was away. They would call and check on me all the time. I also got care packages from many friends which always made me feel good.” Byrd has been in the Alabama National Guard for 24 years and knows the importance of having good friends to go through a deployment with. His roommate while deployed was Maj. Michael Stevens, who worked with the 135th ESC Judge Advocate General Corps. “We would always come back to the room and talk about our day. He’s a great guy and has been a good friend for many years,” Byrd said.
Now that their deployment has ended, the 135th ESC will return to normal drilling status, which is typically one weekend a month and two weeks a year.
For more photos, turn to A8.

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