As we continue to thank our veterans today we would like to take a look back at the stories of local veterans that we have had the opportunity to meet :
Milford Soldier Returns Home
During the past 4 years, Will Schuler of Milford has been serving his country in the Delaware National Guard as part of the 1049th Transportation Company. Living his entire life in the Greater Milford Area, Will found himself stationed halfway across the globe in the deserts of Northern Afghanistan. Entrenched in the Islamic culture and constantly prepared for combat, Will was living what he describes as ‘another life’.
The 1049th Transportation Company was mobilized to Fort Bliss, Texas in 2010 to receive training for their future missions in Afghanistan. In country for 11 months, the 1049th Transportation Company was stationed in several military bases including Mazar-e Sharif and Dehdadi. As the unit flew into Mazar-e Sharif the soldiers had their first taste of what it really meant to be deployed overseas in the Middle East during a conflict.
“I remember stepping off the plane seeing the mountain ranges and feeling the driest heat I had ever felt,” recalls Schuler. “With blimps patrolling overhead and guards at all times there was the shock of knowing that the enemy was there all the time. You could not trust anyone outside of your unit because anyone could be working for the enemy.”
After the Delaware National Guard unit was trained in country they were transported to their home base in Dehdadi. It was from this location that the 1049th Transportation Company provided tactical and operation distribution, truck transportation and combat logistics patrol security to over 25 Forward Operating Bases and Command Outposts throughout Regional Command North and East Afghanistan.
On his first experience outside the base, Will facilitated a short haul with a replacement unit from Alabama and learned how to operate vehicles he would soon be very familiar with.
“I remember looking out my window and seeing exactly what you see on the news,” recounts Schuler. “The people were living in mud huts and did not have anything. That is when it really hits you and you know you’re a part of it.”
The company completed over 249 complex short and long haul missions over 216,000 miles of some of the most dangerous terrain on earth. On each transportation run Will and his unit had to be extremely cautious when coming in contact with Afghanistan civilians due to the difficulty of determining exactly who the enemy was.
“The Taliban were engaging the people that we were trying to help and many times it was difficult for us to establish any relationship with them,” stated Schuler, “We were helping provide supplies to villages but the Taliban knew these families and the individuals in them. For some, the Taliban became a provider and others were threatened if they did not comply.”
After eleven months in the Afghanistan desert, Will and the 1049th Transportation Company received word that they would be coming home to the United States. On May 28 the Formal Homecoming Ceremony for the Delaware National Guard soldiers from the 1049th Transportation Company was held in Harrington, Delaware. The event celebrated the safe return of all 164 soldiers in the unit.
Will is now attempting to return to his normal life back at home with his new wife. They have moved to Newark, Delaware so that Will can complete the last two years of his History Education degree from the University of Delaware.
“I am extremely excited to pick back up from where I was before I was deployed,” commented Will. “I would tell people to take advantage of everyday life. Whether its waking up next to my wife or seeing the grass in my front yard, I have learned to cherish the simple things.”
Levitsky Sisters Receive Award For WWII Service
Milford residents Dorothy and Ellan Levitsky were recently presented the French Legion of Honor Award at the French Embassy in Washington D.C. for their heroic service in the United States Army during World World II. The sisters were among 13 veterans that received the prestigious recognition as they were honored as Knights of the Legion of Honor.
First Lieutenant Ellan J. Levitsky and Second Lieutenant Dorothy F. Levitsky both served as Nurses with the 164th General Hospital in World War II. Stationed in Normandy, France both sisters most notably served in the Battle of the Buldge which was fought in the winter of 1944 and marked the last major offensive effort by the Nazis during the war.
Raised as children in Salem, New Jersey, Dorothy and Ellan both were trained and worked as nurses at hospitals in Philadelphia when WWII broke out. Ellan, the more outspoken and younger of the two sisters, had a desire to join the war effort and support the troops that were fighting against Nazi Germany. Being inseparable acrossed their entire lives, Ellan knew that if she signed up Dorothy would answer the call to serve as well. Dorothy’s one request when she enlisted was that the two were not separated during the war.
“It was not a question of if I wanted to, but more that I knew I had to go,” stated Ellan.
“I did not want her to be alone,” commented Dorothy. “I told them that we would only enlist if we could be together.”
After coming home from work early one afternoon, Ellan and Dorothy surprised their mother with the news that they had quit their jobs and were enlisting in the United States Army to serve in World War II. On September 11, 1944, at the ages of 22 and 24, the pair departed New York for Normandy, France aboard the HMS Cynthia.
While on duty in France, Dorothy and Ellan served as members of the 164th General Hospital from August 1944 to April 1945. During the war Ellan applied anesthesia to soldiers and Dorothy worked as a staff nurse in the hospital wards. According to the WWII US Medical Research Centre, the hospital saw a total admission of 3,455 patients from October, 5 to December, 31 1944, with 31% medical cases and 69% surgical cases. There were 1303 battle casualties admitted.
“We did everything we had to and it is something we will never forget,” commented Ellan. “Keep in mind these were eighteen year old men we were taking care of and they always made a point to thank us. Many of them never got to see being a man as they gave their lives for this country, they are the ones that deserve the medal.”
Both sisters, now retired and living together in Milford, make an annual commitment to visit France as hosts of D-Day services held in several small towns across the country. In 2008 they attended the inauguration of a monument in Picauville, France, dedicated to the 90th Infantry Division. Since then the sisters have visited numerous WWII ceremonies in France including the towns of Le Fiere, Gourbesville, and Amfreville.
“We love going back to France, there is so much camaraderie and the kids bring us flowers. They were taught that the Americans liberated them,” commented Ellan. “After the war we left Normandy but Normandy never left us.”
Delaware Welcomes Home Local Soldiers
On Monday, May 28 the Formal Homecoming Ceremony for the 164 Delaware National Guard soldiers from the 1049th Transportation Company, headquartered in Seaford, was held at the Schabinger Pavilion at the Harrington Fairgrounds. The event celebrated their return to the United States while honoring the sacrifices of the American soldier on Memorial Day.
The 1049th Transportation Company provided tactical and operation distribution, truck transportation and combat logistics patrol security to over 25 Forward Operating Bases and Command Outposts throughout Regional Command North and East Afghanistan. The company completed over 249 complex short and long haul missions over 216,000 miles of some of the most dangerous terrain on earth.
Major General Vavala, Governor Markell and United States Senator Tom Carper expressed their gratitude to the soldiers for answering the call to service and thanked their families for their unconditional support.
“I submit to you there is no better way to celebrate Memorial Day than to honor these warriors,” stated Major General Vavala. “I thank God Almighty for your safe return. Today we are truly blessed to welcome home all of the members of the 1049th Transportation Company.”
Governor Markell had the opportunity to meet with the troops in Afghanistan in November 2011 and recalled his trip during the homecoming event.
“When I stepped off that helicopter in Afghanistan you shared with me such pride in what you had accomplished there,” recalled Governor Markell. “Most of all I will remember that incredible spirit each one of you had. I know you have been waiting for this moment for so long and I have too. Welcome home.”
The troops were stationed in Afghanistan since May 2011 and returned to the United States May 21, 2012. Thirty-five soldiers of the 1049th Transportation Company received Combat Action Badges, 12 soldiers were awarded the Bronze Star, 141 soldiers were awarded the Army Commendation Medal and 13 soldiers were awarded the Army Achievement Medal.