McInnis appreciated for taking time to salute a soldier |

McInnis appreciated for taking time to salute a soldier

Dear Editor,

It has become commonplace to hear about individuals serving our nation’s armed forces only in times of peril. Usually, the stories that are related involve massive feats of bravery in armed conflict, and too often many of those stories are relayed posthumously. Similarly, we rarely hear about our elected officials unless they are involved in scandals or in nasty partisan infighting. However, I feel obligated to pass on an experience involving a service member and an elected official that many would not hear about otherwise.

I was born and raised in North Park, Colo. Like many of the other young men and women from that area I volunteered to serve in the armed forces and I was honored to be commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Army Aviation.

Army aviation is structured differently from the rest of the Army and from any other aviation branch in the other armed services. In the Army, we rely heavily on warrant officers and chief warrant officers. These soldiers are specialized, highly professional officers who fly, train other pilots, and insure the proper maintenance of the Army’s helicopters and airplanes.

In a highly technical field like aviation, many lieutenants, like myself, show up to their first units with a lot to learn about both the technical and tactical details involved in deploying and fighting to Army Aviation doctrine. We rely heavily on the older and more experienced warrant officers to share their expertise with us. Though most warrant officers will never command they are instrumental in mentoring and training the commissioned officers that lead aviation platoons, companies, battalions, and brigades.

One such warrant officer is CW3 Gene Berry. After more than 20 years of service defending the nation’s interests on four different continents, CW3 Berry was preparing to retire. He had proved to be an exceptional pilot throughout his career, and more importantly he was always available to mentor younger officers and warrant officers.

While serving, CW3 Berry accumulated many tokens of thanks from the units he had served. Usually these included plaques, framed pictures, or framed documents presented by battalion or brigade commanders. Before retiring, he mentioned in passing the only thing he never got, but always wanted, was a flag from the U.S. Capitol Building.

Though CW3 Berry, never really expected such a memento, I felt it would be an appropriate symbol of gratitude to thank him for the sacrifices that go along with serving the nation for over 20 years.

I got in contact with my congressman, Rep. Scott McInnis, and his staff a few months before CW3 Berry’s retirement. Not even two days later I received a call from the McInnis office in Washington , D.C., saying they would do everything they could to provide a flag from the Capitol to honor CW3 Berry’s contribution to the nation.

Within two weeks I received the flag from Rep. McInnis’ office along with a document signed by him personally thanking CW3 Berry for his service to a grateful nation.

The flag was presented to CW3 Berry in front of the entire 1-10 Aviation Attack Helicopter Battalion at Fort Drum, NY. CW3 Berry was surprised and grateful to receive the flag and the gratitude from a congressman. The other officers and enlisted soldiers in the battalion were also surprised and impressed that a congressman would take the time and the effort to salute a soldier. It reflected very positively on Rep. McInnis and the state of Colorado.

Though this event is hardly front-page news, it shows that there are still outstanding Americans serving the public in the armed forces and in elected positions. Just as Rep. McInnis conveyed that he was proud of an American who selflessly served his nation as a soldier, I was very proud to be able to say that it was my congressman that took the time to say thanks to one soldier on behalf of the nation he loyally served.


1LT Justin Rich

U.S. Army

Fort Drum, NY

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