FORT STEWART, Ga. – When Staff Sgt. Samuel Nay was asked how far his infantry squad has to walk on the average combat mission, he answered honestly: the distance is unlimited. He didn’t hold back when asked about the weight of each soldier’s combat gear, either—70 pounds—or how much wearing the gear raises a soldier’s perception of the environmental temperature; he said you add about 15 degrees to the actual temperature and that’s how it feels.
But when Nay was asked, after knowing all the physical demands that come with being an infantryman, why he and his soldiers decided to become light fighters, the squad leader redirected the question to his soldiers.
“It’s pretty remarkable that everyone here volunteered,” Nay said. “They all have their own stories.”
Nay, a Georgetown, Colo., native with Company B, 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, and his squad fielded the questions, May 8, at Fort Stewart, Ga., from 57 Hilton Head Island, S.C., business and property owners touring the installation.
The daylong tour—which began with a welcome brief from Col. Christopher Hughes, Deputy Commanding General – Support for 3rd Inf. Div., and included a hands-on AH-64D Apache helicopter demonstration presented by aviators from 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade, 3rd Inf. Div.—was held to thank the individuals for their participation in Operation R & R, a nonprofit organization that has benefited soldiers and their families since 2008.
Grant P. Evans, founder and president of Operation R & R, described the program as a way to help couples reintegrate after long periods of separation caused by deployment. The program provides families with a free week’s use of island homes, condos and villas from September to May—including the cleaning costs—as well as offers discounts to restaurants and service-related businesses.
“We supply alone-time for these couples,” Evans said. “We have … found out that it seems to beat some of the other methods [that have been used] to try to deal with reintegration problems.”
Evans said Operation R & R has expanded to Charleston, S.C., and that the program, since its inception, will have hosted more than 800 families by the end of May.
After Evans and the other contributors visited with the soldiers, 1st Lt. Matthew McCarthy, the executive officer for Company B, 3rd Bn., 7th Inf. Regt., shared his family’s experience with Operation R & R with the group.
McCarthy said he, his wife and three sons stayed on Hilton Head Island in September 2011 after he returned from a 12-month tour in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn.
“I had my 18-month-old on one pinkie and I had my three-and-a-half-year-old on the other pinkie,” McCarthy said. “It was about 7 o’clock in the morning [and] we had walked about 100 meters on the beach and I could see these dolphins.
“Tears [came] to my eyes,” McCarthy continued. “How many people can say they’ve had this experience with their children? It was really an incredible experience for me—‘Thank you.’”
Spc. Justin E. Morrison, with Company B, 3rd Bn., 7th Inf. Regt., and native of Crane, Texas, said he enjoyed every second of his visit with the Operation R & R property and business owners.
“I’m pretty happy that all these people appreciate us [for] doing what we do,” the infantryman said. “Sometimes you just hear people say [they support the Troops] but when you actually see it with your own two eyes…it just [feels] pretty good inside.”
Spc. David R. Harris, also with Company B, 3rd Bn., 7th Inf. Regt., and a native of Big Stone Gap, Va., agreed with his battle buddy.
“I thought it was good to actually get to talk to some civilians [and] let them meet some soldiers,” Harris said. “We really appreciate [what they do] more than they probably understand or know.”