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Bedford Boys: Soldiers Carry on Tradition of Forefathers

By Sgt. Jennifer S. Emmons, USA
American Forces Press Service

GHAZNI, Afghanistan, April 5, 2005 – The Army is rich in history and tradition, and the soldiers of the unit known as the "Bedford Boys" know they have much to live up to.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Army 1st Lt. Jonathan Toland, a member of Company C, 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, pulls forward security during a stop on a patrol in Ghazni province, Afghanistan. Photo by Sgt. Jennifer S. Emmons, USA

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Company C, 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, is made up mostly of soldiers from Bedford, Va. During the invasion of Europe on D-Day, June 6, 1944, this National Guard unit was among the first to hit Omaha Beach.

In the first moments of the bloody battle, 19 soldiers from Bedford gave their lives for their country. The town lost more servicemembers per capita than any city in the United States. Since then, the soldiers of this company have been known as the Bedford Boys. "This is the first time the unit has deployed since World War II," said Staff Sgt. Ken Asbury, a Company C squad leader. "It's interesting that our unit was on the front lines of fighting for the freedom of Europe. And here, over 60 years later, we are fighting for the freedom of the Afghan people. It's great to be part of helping a country get out of poverty it's been in for hundreds of years."

Things are different now from how they were in World War II, said Sgt. Michael Walker, a Company C team leader. "The job might not be as demanding as it was for the soldiers assaulting the beach on D-Day, but we are doing the same job of fighting for freedom and keeping the peace here," said Walker.

Bedford residents are proud of their Bedford Boys. "When we got the orders to mobilize, the executive officer of the original Bedford Boys came and shook all the soldiers' hands," said 1st Lt. Steele McGonegal, executive officer of Company C. "The people from Bedford are very proud. They gave their boys once, and live with that every day."

Sgt. Anthony Dooley, an anti-armor team leader for Company C, grew up in Bedford. "Everyone holds the memory," he said. "I grew up listening to my grandparents telling me the stories about 'their boys.' When I got off active duty, there was no question what unit I wanted to be a part of within the National Guard."

People from Virginia have been visibly supportive of their deployed troops. "The battalion has received 60 percent of the mail that comes into (Bagram Air Base)," said Asbury. "Out of that, Charlie Company has received about 60 percent."

With so many past heroes coming from the unit, the soldiers feel a sense of duty to do well for their community. "We're professional, and we are going to do the best we can to accomplish the mission, because that is what we do," McGonegal said.

The Bedford Boys want to complete the mission here in Afghanistan, not only for the sense of pride it brings them as soldiers, but also to carry on the tradition of bravery set by those men more than half a century ago.

"It's important to do the best we can for the guys to our left and right," said Walker. "It's almost as important to be able to go home at the end of this (deployment) and be able to look at the people in the community and say, 'Yes, your boys did good work.'"

(Army Sgt. Jennifer S. Emmons is assigned to the 17th Public Affairs Detachment.)

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