With US troops deployed, the mission at home intensifies

Russia At War

(NewsNation Now) — As the Ukraine crisis intensifies, the U.S. has committed thousands of troops to bases in Poland, Germany and Romania.

In a move to bolster NATO countries in Eastern Europe, their mission will be to train and provide deterrence but not to engage in combat in Ukraine.

The majority of that burden has fallen on U.S. troops deployed from Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Those who live there say that deployment is a way of life everyone has signed up for, but the absence is still felt. And it’s hard.

To date, 5,000 U.S. soldiers have been deployed to the conflict from Fort Bragg.

While those soldiers are gone for an indefinite amount of time, the mission here at home is taking care of the families left behind.

“In Fayetteville, war is not three letters in the alphabet. It’s a way of life,” veteran George Breece said.

They say Fort Bragg is the center of the military universe.

“That’s what it means to be from Fayetteville,” said Christopher Fletcher, a local pastor. “That your friends are on a two-year life cycle and you may or may not ever see them again.”

And right now, almost 10% of those friends and community members are missing — deployed to Europe, waiting at the edge of war.

“You know, when the world dials 911, the phone is answered at Fort Bragg,” Breece said.

Breece is a Fort Bragg veteran himself. You could say he’s the city’s military mascot.

Infinitely proud of the troops and a staunch advocate for their support, Breece says those soldiers aren’t just men and women in uniform — they’re an integral part of this place.

“They teach Little League baseball, they go to our churches, they’re volunteers in our community. They’re really great Americans,” Breece said.

“I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that Fayetteville is who Fayetteville is because of Fort Bragg,” Fletcher said. “You can’t separate those two.”

Fletcher is the lead pastor at Manna Church. He’s helped plant almost 25 churches on or near every U.S. military base across the world. Right now, he’s leading many families through a loved one’s absence.

“We’re a community that we feel very tight-knit community behind our servicemen and women,” Fletcher said. “I’m not sure where they end and we begin except we can’t get on base without the proper identification.”

Breece walked us through a military art installation. Every hand is a mold of a soldier, one from every county in North Carolina. It means a lot to him, especially in times like these.

“I stood over some graves. I understand the price of freedom. And I have friends who lost their arms and legs,” he said. “That’s something.”

Breece says that each time there’s a big deployment like this, he feels like part of him goes with those soldiers .

“Pray for them and their families,” Breece said. “And if you ever see anybody in a military uniform, stop and thank them. Just (say) … thank you.”

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