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Open Mike (Column): Hamburg cross country’s support of soldiers resonates close to home

During the fall, the Hamburg cross country team shows off its T-shirts in support of troops from the 27th Infantry Brigade NYARNG, which is deployed throughout the Middle East.

We try never to forget but sometimes we can lose sight of the fact that this country remains entrenched in an ongoing mission in the Middle East and there are soldiers that remain deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

With the mission in Iraq over, casualties in the Middle East continuing to decline and some soldiers being sent back home, it’s not impossible to lose track of the military still in places such as Afghanistan, where most of the fighting remains. Sometimes its takes an unfortunate event in that part of the world to re-alert us of that fact.

Members of the Hamburg High School cross country team did their best not to forget. In fact, they kept a close eye on the military’s involvement in the Middle East and decided to honor soldiers over there in their own way.

They’ve got good reason to do so. Their coach, William Malican, has two sons in the Army National Guard with missions in Afghanistan. Will IV, his first born son, has been in the western part of the country traveling north to south and seen Iran, while Matt, his third child, has been all over the country east to west and seen Pakistan.

The brothers are in separate units with different missions as part of the 27th Infantry Brigade NYARNG, which is deployed throughout the Middle East, but for about three months they happened to have been at the same base, almost an improbability considering Matt’s mission, according to coach Malican.

He said Matt is involved with advising commanders on procedures to close their bases in conformance with Pentagon protocol and Will is the commander for his platoon, which is the lead truck for road clearing missions to ward off dangers such as IEDs.

So while some cross country teams sported T-shirts with old athletic adages, mottos created by this particular group and nicknames, Hamburg’s cross country squad attempted to connect with soldiers such as the Malican boys through making shirts to recognize United States Army National Guard units deployed in the Middle East.

As shown in a photo that ran in the Nov. 1 edition of The Sun, the front of the shirts feature the Bulldog logo of B Company, 427 Brigade Support Battalion, which is deployed at combat outposts across Afghanistan, and on the back is a logo of A Company — Combat Engineers - 27 Battle Support Troops Battalion, which is engaged in route clearance and are part of the 27th Brigade Support Troops Battalion in Herat province. Written on the shirts is “Essayons” which is the combat engineer motto meaning “Let us try.”

“The kids have been tremendously supportive of me, my sons and their units,” coach Malican said. “I have tried to keep them updated without sharing details that might not be too pleasant.”

Upon seeing a photo of the student-athletes in their shirts, Malican’s son, Staff Sergeant Will IV, expressed his appreciation and gratitude in return by sending the team a thank you letter that came at a perfect time, it being last month around the holidays. Coach Malican was kind enough to share it with The Sun.

“In a time when an unpopular war doesn’t seem to make the front page of the news, you have all shown tremendous character in your own efforts to support the men and women here in Afghanistan,” Will Malican IV wrote.

“Some of you may think that by simply wearing a T-shirt you aren’t doing much of anything; let me tell you are wrong,” he elaborated. “Everyone of you made a strong symbolic gesture of support to us here, and I want to impart to you my sincere thanks for your continued well wishes, thoughts and prayers.”

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