Magazine article Soldiers Magazine

Guard Soldiers Help Evacuees

Magazine article Soldiers Magazine

Guard Soldiers Help Evacuees

Article excerpt

DAYS after Israeli warplanes battered southern Lebanon in a fierce counterattack on Hezbollah terrorists, U.S. Marines landed in force in Lebanon for the first time since 1983.

They were there to aid in the evacuation of U.S. citizens, using helicopters to airlift them to waiting cruise ships for onward movement to Cyprus.

By July 20, nine days after the fighting began, more than 2,000 people had been evacuated in this way, according to a CNN report.

In the early hours of July 21, as the number of people being evacuated increased and the fighting intensified, about a dozen Maryland National Guard Soldiers from the 1297th Combat Sustainment and Support Battalion, headquartered in Havre de Grace, were at Baltimore-Washington International Airport to assist arriving evacuees in whatever way they could.

"We're helping to carry luggage, offering Red Cross-provided boxed lunches, helping them find their way through the airport to make flight connections, and even providing spiritual support," said SSG Chris Gerben.

Chaplain (CPT) William Baron of the battalion's 1st Squadron, 158th Cavalry, from Annapolis, was among three chaplains on hand for several incoming flights of evacuees into BWI on July 20 and 21.

"Some people have had it pretty rough--dodging bombs to cross Beirut," Baron said. "Some were riding in cars and had artillery shells explode around them and saw parts of buildings crumble. The elderly have medical conditions. Many of the evacuees are dual citizens who are from Lebanon and were visiting relatives there. …

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