While making his rounds, Chaplain Jason Smith (right) stops at the checkpoint on Hwy. 136 and I-29 in Rock Port. Sgt. 1st Class David Weiss (left) was glad to see Smith check on the emotional and spiritual welfare of his Soldiers on flood duty. (Photo by Jennifer Archdekin/Missouri National Guard)
By Jennifer Archdekin
ROCK PORT, Mo. - It's been one month since Gov. Jay Nixon called up the Missouri National Guard to fight the Missouri River flooding in northwest Missouri. Many Citizen-Soldiers remain on duty who have been in the fight since the very beginning.
The National Guard takes great attention to make sure Soldiers are physically and mentally trained for any mission, but the Guard also focuses on troops' spiritual and emotional wellbeing.
Chaplain Jason Smith, with the Missouri Army National Guard, set out to visit fellow Soldiers who have been on the frontline of the flood fight.
"I'm checking on their welfare and spiritual wellbeing and making sure everything is ok," said Smith.
In Rock Port, the 1-129th Field Artillery headquartered in Maryville has over 30 Soldiers manning checkpoints. They work 12-hour shifts, seven days a week and are away from their Families, homes and jobs.
Sgt. 1st David Weiss, of Maryville, has been on flood duty since June 16. In that time, he said he has seen his wife and three kids only once.
"We were on duty so I got to see them for about 10 or 15 minutes," said Weiss. "They understand. That's the Army."
That is why Smith's presence can be so vital for those on mission.
"They're more apt to talk to a chaplain than they are to a sergeant," said Weiss. "It will help if they need to talk, if they do miss their Family. The guys will benefit. I think mostly they are missing their Families."
It's evident the shifts have been long and physically demanding on these men, but spirits remain high even a month later.
"It seems like they're pretty motivated," said Smith. "The community has been very supportive of what they're doing, which keeps the troops' morale up."
Spc. Christopher Owens, of Mound City, has also been on duty from the beginning, away from Family and his fiancé.
"It's hard not being able to see my Family," said Owens. "It's nice talking to the chaplain. I think it boosts morale. Just the shifts we are working...that can probably start wearing on people."
The artillerymen working in this area come from armories in Maryville, Albany and Chillicothe. They will be the first to tell you how their unit, and the National Guard as a whole, is an extended Family to them.
"Everybody is working together," said Weiss. "If somebody needs something we cover down for each other."
"It makes me really proud to be able to help these Soldiers as they help the community," said Smith. "It's an important job they're doing and it's important to give them the support they need in order to keep doing that job."
For more information about the Missouri National Guard, please visit www.moguard.com and our social media sites: www.facebook.com/Missouri.National.Guard; www.twitter.com/Missouri_NG; www.youtube.com/MoNationalGuard; www.myspace.com/missouri_ng; www.flickr.com/photos/missouriguard; www.blog.moguard.com
For more information about this release, please contact Jennifer Archdekin at 816-262-2893 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org