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NEWS | Nov. 29, 2011

Families deployed to Afghanistan put human face on National Family Week celebration

By Army Sgt. Francis O'Brien 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team

ZABUL PROVINCE, Afghanistan - Two Richmond, Va., brothers - one active duty, one a mobilized National Guard member, both currently serving in Afghanistan - are yet another example of the why the nation celebrates November as Military Family Appreciation Month and Nov. 20 to 26 as National Family Week.

They are Army Spc. Joshua B. Shropshire, a signal support systems specialist with the Virginia Army National Guard 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, and Army Pfc. Stephen Shropshire, a human intelligence collector with the 1st Battalion, 67th Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division. Both are on their first deployment, much to the dismay of their parents.

"Our parents were a mess when I left," said Spc. Shropshire. "Stephen got in country about two weeks after I did. I can only imagine what they went through, as time goes on, I think it is getting easier for them."

"Our family worries all the time as do the many friends we share," added Pfc. Shropshire.

Many members of the Shropshire clan have served: grandfathers, four cousins and soon two younger brothers with plans to join the Army. Although the two deployed brothers are only a short helicopter ride apart, they've had no luck coordinating their training schedules to meet at nearby Kandahar Airfield.

"My brother is my best friend," said Pfc. Shropshire. "He and I are closer than I could begin to describe. We always did things too wild to tell; things I'll never speak of again. I chose my [military occupational specialty] because of him."

"Definitely my best friend," said Spc. Shropshire of his brother. "He's taught me things only a brother can teach, including what mistakes not to make."

To recognize the sacrifices made by families like the Shropshires, President Obama called upon the nation to honor the contributions and sacrifices made by military families in a proclamation that declared Nov. 20 to 26 National Family Week.

"Our troops and military families serve with valor at home and overseas, and as a nation we have a moral obligation to serve these patriots as well as they have served us," the president wrote.

In a proclamation for Military Family Appreciation Month, the President added, "each day of security and freedom that we enjoy to the members of our Armed Forces and their families. Behind our brave service men and women, there are family members and loved ones who share in their sacrifice and provide unending support."

Army Maj. Gregory D. Hall, also deployed with the 116th IBCT, enjoyed the luck that the Shropshire brothers lacked when he ran into his stepdaughter, Air Force Staff Sgt. Marcella Ashby of the 809th Red Horse Squadron in Kandahar.

"We had a great day together," Hall said. "We were very lucky to have the chance to spend some time together while deployed; very unexpected."



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