Connecticut National Guard medic unit welcomed home

The Day

By: Elizabeth Regan

September 8, 2022

Windsor Locks ― Connecticut National Guard Spc. Maritza Meuse had a different plan than many of her fellow soldiers upon her return Thursday from an almost year-long deployment to Poland.

Others in the Danbury-based 142nd Area Support Medical Company stepped onto the tarmac at Bradley International Airport, shook hands with Gov. Ned Lamont and ran into the open arms of family members and friends.

But Meuse, of Niantic, had her sights set on southeastern Connecticut.

The 21-year-old said she’d arranged a ride home with a couple other returning soldiers so she could surprise her family.

“They don’t know I’m coming home,” Meuse said.

Only her brother was in on the secret that she’d be showing up unannounced at her mother’s workplace later that day.

Among those at the airport for the homecoming were the Patterson family from Ridgefield, who said Richard Patterson missed a sister’s wedding and a niece’s birth while he was away. There was the Courtney family, who said Brenna Courtney’s deployment seemed even longer because it came right after she’d already been away so long for basic and advanced trainings. There was Matthew Jones, of New Haven, who’d kept in touch with his friend, Sgt. Shayquan Turner, throughout the deployment thanks to interactive video game technology.

The unit, which provided medical care and patient transport for allied and partner forces from a base in Powidz, Poland, served as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve.

Major Dave Pytlik, the Connecticut National Guard’s public affairs officer, said the operation began in the wake of Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 to demonstrate the US commitment to NATO and Europe.

Pytlik said the unit arrived in October, before this year’s Russian invasion of Ukraine in February. Their job amid the escalation of violence in the neighboring country became one of preparation.

“Fortunately, the Ukrainians stopped them pretty far from the border,” he said of Russian troops. “And that’s a lot of what we do in the military, preparing for the worst case scenario.”

According to White House transcripts, Vice President Kamala Harris in March told US and Polish soldiers in Warsaw that each rotation of US soldiers in the country since then have averaged about 5,000 troops. An additional 4,700 troops were called up to support the NATO country as the invasion ramped up.

The Powidz base is in the western part of the country, roughly 600 miles from the Ukrainian border.

Meuse recalled turning a gym tent into a patient hold tent in the event of more casualties. But they didn’t need to use it.

“We just prepared more, for more stuff to happen,” she said.

Kerilyn Deere, of Bethlehem, and her future mother-in-law, Marianne Patterson, of Ridgefield, said Sgt. Richard Patterson did a good job of reassuring them he was far from the fighting.

The wedding is planned for November.

Marianne Patterson said her son told them he was unlikely to be shipped to Poland’s eastern border because the soldiers could not abandon the clinic they were operating on the Powidz base.

“The fact that he was all the way in the west, was absolutely reassuring,” she said.

Grace Courtney held a “Welcome Home, Dumbass” sign for Spc. Brenna Courtney.

“I’m a little sister,” she explained. “I’m contractually obligated to call her a dumbass.”

Amid the good natured sibling rivalry, the 23-year-old said it had been scary to think about the possibility of her sister being moved closer to the border to provide aid after the invasion of Ukraine. But Brenna Courtney told her the chances were slim.

“At the same time, she said they’re doing a lot of drills and there was a lot of extra preparedness,” Grace Courtney said.

Lamont in a statement following his attendance at the homecoming thanked the members of the unit for their work with international partners to provide medical support and other essential services.

“The men and women of the Connecticut National Guard, including the members of the 142nd, have been providing incredible support to the state throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, in addition to their response to several weather emergencies over the past year,” he said.

Pytlik said deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan have been replaced with other global hot spots.

“More recently it’s been the Horn of Africa. It’s been Eastern Europe. It’s been Kosovo,” he said. “Things don’t really slow down.”

Members of the Connecticut Air National Guard’s 103rd Airlift Wing left Bradley International Airport just over two weeks ago for up to six months in support of Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa. The command stems from the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Click here to view this article as it originally appeared on The Day website.