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Southwick VFW adopting deployed battalion

WESTFIELD – A ceremony was held on February 8 to send off members of the 638th Aviation Support Battalion of the Massachusetts Army National Guard as they are being deployed to Afghanistan for a maximum of one year in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.

VFW Post 872 Chairman Troy Henke (l) is seen presenting the official certificate of adoption to Sgt. Matthew Thibodeau (r). (Photo courtesy of Troy Henke)

Prior to the deployment to Afghanistan, the battalion is spending two months at Fort Bliss in Texas for mobilization. Once in Afghanistan, the mission for the battalion is to provide aviation support and maintenance.

Troy Henke, Chairman of VFW Post 872, was present at the ceremony due to being approached by the Family Readiness Group. A command-sponsored organization consisting of family members, volunteers, soldiers, and civilian employees, the Family Readiness Group works with military units to provide support when loved ones are deployed.

VFW Post 872 has agreed to the Family Readiness Group’s request to adopt the 638th Aviation Support Battalion and their family members. Part of the Military Assistance Program, the Family Readiness Group program involves VFW Post 872 sending care packages to the family, assisting them with what they need, and also speaking with those who are deployed.

The 22 members of the 638th Aviation Support Battalion are seen at the Massachusetts Army National Guard located at Barnes Airport on Friday. (Photo from Troy Henke)

“We are adopting them and providing support and encouragement for them and their families,” said Henke.

Henke added that the experience that VFW members have had in the military and with deployments can make a positive impact on the battalion they adopt and their family members.

“Everybody in the VFW has been there, we’ve all had our going away ceremonies and our indefinite deployments,” said Henke. “It’s critical to talk to people that have been there.”

Adopting the battalion also creates a partnership for the VFW that can last longer than the deployment.

“The hope is to also have them join (the VFW) and increase our membership,” said Henke. “It’s really a win-win for both the unit that’s adopted and the (VFW) Post.”

At the ceremony on Friday, Henke presented Sgt. Matthew Thibodeau of the 638th Aviation Support Battalion with an official certificate of adoption.

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