Last February, Antelope County showed its generosity and support of the military as many donated items for care package to be sent to Iraq.
All that was known was the packages were going to a unit serving in Iraq that included the grandson of Feller and Dolly Baker. For security reasons, the soldier’s name wasn’t released publicly.
Antelope County didn’t mind not knowing and donated eight boxes worth of items to soldiers most had never met.
On Monday, the soldier with local ties returned to Neligh to say thank you.
“It was amazing,” said Cade Luce. “The care packages came after Christmas, so it was perfect timing. We had run out of items, so it was great to get toothpaste, adult wipes, jerkey and canned goods. Speghetti Os are a nice break from MREs.”
Luce returned from deployment about three weeks ago and visited Neligh with his three children. He was part of the Colorado Army National Guard Task Force of approximately 120 Soldiers from Bravo Battery, 3rd Battalion, 157th Field Artillery. The unit deployed for about a year to the Middle East, in support of Operations Inherent Resolve and Spartan Shield and the war against ISIS.
According to the Colorado National Guard, while deployed they executed a theater security cooperation mission under the 29th Infantry Division increasing interoperability knowledge with U.S. partners in the region.
“The Soldiers of Bravo Battery made a significant impact in the fight against ISIS in both Iraq and Syria,” said Army Maj. William DiProfio, Battalion Commander. “Their professionalism and superior execution of operations were a great credit to the Colorado Army National Guard and the United States Army as a whole.
The unit has mobilized numerous times during the past decade including in 2009 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, but this was Luce’s first deployment.
Luce, who is a mechanic for DCP Midstream, said he joined the Army National Guard nine years at the age of 33. His wife, Angie, is a member of the Air Guard.
He said one of the most challenging parts of being deployed was missing his family. He was able to communicate with his family via Skype and Facebook messenger, but Luce said he still was surprised to see how much his children grew while he was gone.
Luce said he joined the National Guard because of the benefits it provided for not only health care, but also for the education of his children. With the GI Bill, Luce will be able to transfer those education benefits to one of his children.
Luce said his unit served as the first artillery mission in the history of the Colorado National Guard. Although it was combat, it was still safe, he said.
“We weren’t boots on the ground face to face with ISIS,” Luce said. “Where we were, we were completely safe. We were capable of reaching our enemy from a very long ways away. There were special forces out there, but the push is to have the Iraqi army handle this. They needed support and someone behind them. When things got scary, we could launch rockets to clear the way for them.”
Luce said he anticipates have to go back deploy again in about four years.
“I’m very proud of the work we did as a unit,” Luce said. “It was a success.”