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'Day for God and Country' honors veterans and service members who died in conflict

June 10, 2012|By DAVE McMILLION | davem@herald-mail.com
  • Lt. Col. Joseph Gardenhour speaks Sunday afternoon during the 25th annual "Day for God and Country" at Camp West Mar near Thurmont, Md.
By Dave McMillion, Staff Writer

THURMONT, Md. — Lt. Col. Joseph Gardenhour talked Sunday about being separated from his family during his time in theU.S. Air Force, including being away from his son for eight months after the boy was born.

Gardenhour also talked about his wife being separated from both of their children during her time in the U.S. Air Force, and said the scenario is common among military members.

Gardenhour, a Smithsburg High School graduate, said repeated deployments for military members in recent years have been stressful for the individuals involved, but he feels confident that the military is meeting their needs.

Gardenour said the military is “constantly looking at it,” adding that there are service clubs on military bases and counselors to help military members cope with stress related to repeated deployments.

Gardenour told about 100 people during an American Legion Auxiliary event at Camp West Mar in Frederick County, Md., that missing the birth of a child and holidays with loved ones are “just minor obstacles in the road” for military members.

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Gardenour was the guest speaker during the 25th annual “Day for God and Country,” in which American Legion Auxiliary supporters recognize veterans and service members who died in conflict.

Gardenour graduated from Smithsburg High School in 1988 and attended what was then Hagerstown Junior College. Gardenhour later obtained a bachelor’s degree in aerospace from Middle Tennessee State University in 1994.

Gardenhour has an extensive military history, including leading the first F-15E deployment to Kuwait in  support of Operation Southern Watch, which was launched in 1992 to enforce United Nations sanctions against Iraq.

In June 2008, Gardenour commanded the 379th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron and led the U.S. Air Force’s largest aircraft-maintenance organization in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.

Among the other guests at Sunday’s event was J.D. Larson, first vice commander of the American Legion Department of Maryland.

Larson said the sacrifices of military families are often forgotten, and during the Vietnam War, veterans didn’t get the welcome home they deserved. Larson said the American Legion shares part of the blame in the way Vietnam veterans were treated. 

Larson asked any Vietnam War veterans present to stand, and about six did.

“A belated welcome home,” Larson said.

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