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Boston College Hosts Ceremony for National Guard Unit Being Deployed to Afghanistan

Chestnut Hill, MA (March 2011) -- Before their deployment to Afghanistan, nearly 700 members of the Massachusetts National Guard’s First Battalion, 182nd Infantry Regiment were given a rousing sendoff March 27 at an inspirational ceremony hosted by Boston College at Conte Forum and attended by some 4,000 family members and friends. The ceremony was complete with full military trappings, Sousa marches, and distinguished speakers, including Massachusetts Lt. Governor Timothy Murray and US Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.).

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Photos by Josh Levine

Near the conclusion of the hour-long ceremony, Boston College President William P. Leahy presented the battalion with a BC flag that will be flown over the unit’s posts in Afghanistan and returned to the Heights for display at the end of the deployment.

One of those deployed was Boston College Dining Service employee Brian Casey whose military assignment will be as the battalion armorer – the person in charge of maintaining and repairing all of the unit’s weapons -- during his unit’s anticipated 12-month deployment to unspecified locations along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

“We are going over there to do a good thing,” says Casey, a 13-year BC employee.  His National Guard combat unit will provide security for military construction and civil affairs teams who will work to rebuild the war-torn nation’s infrastructure.  “I’m a pretty quiet person and I don’t want to make a big deal out of it. But it is something that I want to do. I believe in the cause and I believe that it is good. I am just doing my job.”

Before becoming a professional chef, Casey served on active duty in the Army between 1984 and 1988, assigned as a tank crewman with the 4th Infantry Division at Fort Carson, Colo. He rejoined the National Guard four years ago, and this will be his first extended active duty deployment. At BC, he spent 10 years in the BC Dining Services Catering Department before moving up to his current position as first cook at the University’s Stuart Hall dining facility.

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BC alumnus Army Chaplain Lt. James Hairston offers a blessing.

Army Chaplain Lt. James Hairston, a 2004 Boston College graduate and ordained Baptist minister, offered a blessing for soldiers, family and friends during the ceremony. “We ask God for reassurance that we will see each other again,” he prayed.

“I will be in Afghanistan as a member of the clergy as well as a soldier,” says Rev. Hairston, although noting that chaplains do not bear arms in the military. “It’s my job to make sure that I am the moral compass and making sure that I keep an ethical lens on all situations. When my soldiers get stressed out, it is my job to make sure that they are OK.

“I want their families to know that I am there for them as well as for their husbands and sons and brothers,” he said. “I want them to know that I am going through this with them and for them to understand that God will be there with them when their soldiers are deployed.”

Rev. Hairston is a Dorchester native who originally chose to attend BC because of its strong political science department and the personal influence of Director of Undergraduate Admission John L. Mahoney Jr. Mahoney who encouraged him to consider applying to the University.

Rev. Hairston is glad he followed Mahoney’s advice. “BC was a great experience,” he says. “They taught me how to look at the world through a lot of different lenses. The mantra of ‘Men and women for others’ really became ingrained in me. We are so used to being individualistic and looking only at ourselves, going to Boston College and learning self-sacrifice for the common good is something that has really helped me.”

After graduating from the College of Arts and Sciences with his degree in political science and a double minor in economics and Black Studies, Rev. Hairston earned a master’s degree in education from Lesley University. Realizing he had been hearing the call to a religious vocation, he enrolled in the Andover-Newton Theological School, where he received a master’s in divinity and eventually became associate pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dorchester.

After his ordination, Rev. Hairston says he heard still “another calling” – that of service to the nation. He joined the National Guard as a military chaplain, choosing that organization because of the Guard’s traditional focus on family values.

“We feel that Boston College has made us part of your community,” said Major Eric J. DiNoto, deputy commander of the battalion and principal planner of the sendoff ceremony. “We have a theme that ‘We are all in this together,’ and BC has opened their arms to us,” he said. “It means so much to all of us.”

 

-Reid Oslin, Boston College Office of News & Public Affairs, reid.oslin@bc.edu