Two Vermonters continue to serve the country even after being deployed to Afghanistan.
Chief Warrant Officer Melissa Rice and Sgt. First Class Ryan Pelletier are long-time members of the Vermont National Guard, serving for more than 25 and 14 years in the military, respectively.
Rice joined the Guard in 1996 at just 18 years old. In March 2010, she was deployed to Afghanistan with the 86 Infantry Brigade Combat Team working for the headquarters in human resources. She served there for nine months.
“We went there and had a mission to complete, and we did our job. I think we all had hopes to create better lives for Afghans. It was disheartening for me personally to see what was happening during the withdraw,” said CW4 Melissa Rice.
Two years after Rice returned home, Sgt. First Class Ryan Pelletier was deployed to Afghanistan. In 2012, he spent nine months on ground in Bagram. He says his family inspires him to serve. For Pelletier, February will mark 14 years in the military.
“My grandfather served, and it was kind of like I wanted to do the same,” said Pelletier. “You know they say it’s one percent that actually serves so when you see someone that actually takes that sacrifice and say ‘hey, I’m going to take my time, and sacrifice family and being away and serve my country,’ it’s important.”
For a while, Pelletier was with the Amy Reserves full time, changing stations every three years. He then joined the Guard in 2016. Today, he recruits soldiers from across the country and from other national guards to the state.
“It’s very rewarding to be able to offer a young man or a young woman the opportunity to go to school, pay for their school. The ability to be part of an organization that’s bigger than themselves,” said Pelletier.
Rice says she clearly remembers being near an Afghan national army base where guards protected it at night.
“I had a hard time sleeping there, not knowing that I was protected by my fellow soldiers — they were asleep as well. So it made me really understand the importance of, like, in America, we go to sleep at night knowing that we have a force that’s there protecting us. That’s something I always think about on Veterans Day,” said Rice.
Like Pelletier, Rice’s family inspires her to serve.
“I serve today for my country, for the people I love, for my family and my children, especially. For the freedom of this country,” said Rice.
On Thursday November 11, the Colchester/Milton Rotary will host its second Operation Flags for Heroes celebration in an effort to honor those who served the country and communities.
Families are encouraged to sponsor an American Flag where they will be put on display. A ceremony will take place at 10 a.m. in at Charlebois Trucking on Route 7 South in Milton. Another will be at 12 p.m. near Dick Mazza’s General Store in Colchester. For more information, visit the Colchester/Milton webpage here.