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Task Force Red Knight Soldiers join fight against cancer

 

Written by U.S. Army Sgt. Brent C. Powell
3rd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division

Fort Campbell KY, 101st Airborne Division PatchKhowst Province, Afghanistan – One team, one fight.  It’s a phrase commonly heard throughout the ranks of Soldiers across the Army.  The phrase “one team, one fight” recently took on new meaning for a group of Soldiers in Task Force Red Knight.

The Soldiers are members of 3rd Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment who found out that two of their Soldiers’ family members have been diagnosed with cancer.

To make matters even worse, both family members are children.

One of those children is 3-year-old Ryan Downey. She is the daughter of Spc. William Downey, a cannoneer assigned to Battery A, 3rd Bn., 320th FA Reg. Ryan has been diagnosed with leukemia.

U.S. Army Maj. Richard Smith, assigned to 3rd Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, uses a pair of clippers to shave the head of U.S. Army Capt. James Wade, a native of St. Petersburg, FL, and civil affairs officer, 3rd Bn., 320th FA Reg., at Forward Operating Base Salerno here Sept. 4th.  The Soldiers have also raised money for the families to help ease their financial burden. (Photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Brent C. Powell, 3rd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division)

U.S. Army Maj. Richard Smith, assigned to 3rd Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, uses a pair of clippers to shave the head of U.S. Army Capt. James Wade, a native of St. Petersburg, FL, and civil affairs officer, 3rd Bn., 320th FA Reg., at Forward Operating Base Salerno here Sept. 4th. The Soldiers have also raised money for the families to help ease their financial burden. (Photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Brent C. Powell, 3rd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division)

The other child is AJ Fuller. AJ is the 8-year-old son of Spc. Adam Fuller, a light-wheeled vehicle mechanic from Company G, 3rd Bn., 320th FA Reg. AJ was diagnosed with leg cancer that had gone into remission, but recently came back.

“We have some Red Knight families back home that are in the fight of their lives,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Richard Ullian, native of Clarksville, TN, and commanding officer, 3rd Bn., 320th FA Reg. “The Red Knight family extends from the tip of the spear here, all the way back to the United States, and we are going to do what we can to assist them by every means possible.”

One way the Rakkasans decided to do that was by coming together and shaving their heads.

Soldiers from Task Force Red Knight’s 3rd Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment shave each other’s heads in a show of support for two of the regiment’s family members who have been diagnosed with cancer. Approximately 20 Soldiers participated in the event Sep. 4 at the regiment’s headquarters on Forward Operating Base Salerno here. (Photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Brent C. Powell, 3rd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division)

Soldiers from Task Force Red Knight’s 3rd Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment shave each other’s heads in a show of support for two of the regiment’s family members who have been diagnosed with cancer. Approximately 20 Soldiers participated in the event Sep. 4 at the regiment’s headquarters on Forward Operating Base Salerno here. (Photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Brent C. Powell, 3rd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division)

“When kids are battling cancer, they may not understand why they are losing their hair, and what’s really happening to them,” said U.S. Army Capt. Justin Hunter, native of Knoxville, TN, and battalion supply officer, 3rd Bn., 320th FA Reg. “We wanted to let them know that losing your hair is ok, and that we are with them in this fight. Hopefully our efforts will help put a smile on their face.”

About 20 Red Knight Soldiers lined up outside their headquarters to take their turn in the barber’s chair.

Before the head shaving started, Ullian took the opportunity to address the Soldiers. “The fact that you are willing to do this shows that you understand what is really important,” he said. “I thank you for your support and for being part of this today.”

One by one, the Red Knights took turns sitting down with hair and getting up without it. Although the Soldiers seemed to enjoy watching each other lose their hair, they never lost sight of why they were there.

“This has been and continues to be a tough battle for the families, but we are going to help them through it,” said Hunter. “Everyone participating in this event today realizes that cancer has touched us all in one way or another.  When children are involved, it always hits you harder, and the families need all the support they can get.”

Soldiers from Task Force Red Knight’s 3rd Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment pose outside the regiment’s headquarters on Forward Operating Base Salerno here after shaving their heads in a display of support for two of the regiment’s family members who have been diagnosed with cancer. (Photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Brent C. Powell, 3rd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division)

Soldiers from Task Force Red Knight’s 3rd Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment pose outside the regiment’s headquarters on Forward Operating Base Salerno here after shaving their heads in a display of support for two of the regiment’s family members who have been diagnosed with cancer. (Photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Brent C. Powell, 3rd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division)

All those who participated seemed to share Hunter’s feelings. “I’m very humbled by this event,” said U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Douglas Pearce, a native of Franklin, TN, and executive officer of Company G, 3rd Bn., 320th FA Reg. “I have six children of my own, and knowing that if this happened to one of them, that I would receive the same kind of support is an incredible feeling.”

In addition to the head-shaving event, the unit also raised a large amount of money to assist the families with financial needs.

Overall, everyone who attended or participated was full of well wishes and support for the Soldiers and their families.

“The purpose of this event was to send the families an expression of our support,” said Ullian. “If this helps them gain some strength or even laugh a little bit, then I think we’ve accomplished our mission.”


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