Army Reserve Soldiers reconnect with hometown on Veterans Day

By Spc. Dakota Vanidestine | 103rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) | Nov. 13, 2019

CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait —

In a patriotic town of only 1,300 people, with a mayor who served during the Vietnam War and a councilman who is prior Air Force, the service of a currently deployed major and specialist in the U.S. Army Reserve is well appreciated this Veterans Day.

The town’s superintendent invited Maj. William Gaefcke, and Spc. Travis Camp, 103rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command, to participate in the community’s pre-Kindergarten – Eighth Grade Consolidated School’s Veterans Day assembly Nov. 11, 2019.

The two “attended” the assembly via special video conference all the way from Camp Arifjan, Kuwait.

As chief of police back home, Gaefcke is well known throughout the community.

“I’ve been a law enforcement officer for the town since I graduated the academy in 1999,” Gaefcke said. “I became chief in 2006 before my first deployment to Afghanistan – when I came back the town actually threw me a parade. That paints a picture of how close our community really is.”

When Gaefcke was asked to speak to the kids back home on Veterans Day, he did not hesitate to accept.

“When I was approached by the superintendent of the school, I said I would be interested in speaking to the kids back home on Veterans Day,” Gaefcke said. “Ladd School District has about 240 students in pre-K through eighth grade, and the community has always been very active in the school – I was more than happy to accept this offer.”

Gaefcke and Principal Dana Dawson spent about 40 days coordinating for this event.

“There was the pledge of allegiance followed by the Boy Scouts presentation of the colors,” Gaefcke said. “After that I gave a small speech – talking about the road to deployment, how we got here, and then we had a question and answer session with the kids. It was very, very cute.”

It is evident that Gaefcke, or “Uncle Popo” as his godchild and some of the kids at school call him, is missed back home.

“Since I have been here, I have already received at least one card from each grade,” Gaefcke said. “I have received about 12 letters in all, which is great considering we are in the era of Snapchat. Depending on the grade level, some of them were more drawings than anything.”

Being the chief of police, Gaefcke has really taken to being a father figure within the small community of Ladd.

“A lot of times with the kids there isn’t structure at the house anymore – you see this when you work in law enforcement,” Gaefcke said. “Events like the one I participated in on Veterans Day reinforces that missing unity and teaches young kids to be junior leaders.”

Upon Gaefcke’s return home, he will pick up right where he left off.

“I’ll still have my job as Chief of Police.” Gaefcke said. “I also have my teaching license, and I will probably go in and teach some classes when I get home. Ladd is one of those communities where I can take a day off of work so that the kids are getting their lesson in for the day.”