SOUTHWEST ASIA — During a long deployment, small comforts can help ease homesickness and boost morale. Capt. Timothy Baranoski, chaplain of 1st Battalion, 44th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 69th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, decided to create a resilience center to provide those comforts to help soldiers of the “Strike First” Battalion through their current deployment.

With help from kind-hearted citizens from across the United States, the resilience center, under the direction of Pfc. Derrick White, chaplain assistant, has grown beyond the original intent.

“What you see here today started as a crazy idea but with love and support and an extra helping of blessing, it has grown beyond what I could have ever imagined,” Baranoski said.

Last month the command team of 31st Air Defense Artillery Brigade, Col. Michael Morrissey and Command Sgt. Maj. Gerardo Dominguez and the battalion command team, Lt. Col. Maurice Barnett and Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Sanchez, stood with the unit ministry team to officially open the Command Sgt. Maj. James D. Blankenbecler Resilience Center with a ribbon cutting ceremony, marking the beginning of a great new facility and program for the soldiers.

The resilience center has a full stock of basic hygiene items for soldiers, a variety of snacks and other goods, and the occasional homemade cookies donated by family members across the United States.

While hygiene items and snacks are enough to boost morale, the resilience center also offers a library of DVDs and books for soldiers to enjoy in their downtime.

Perhaps the greatest feature of the resilience center is the “Reading Corner.” Soldiers have the opportunity to record themselves reading a book to their children and families and send a DVD along with a copy of the book back to their families at home.

The resiliency center was dedicated to Blankenbecler, who was assigned to 1st Battalion, 44th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, in 2003 during a deployment to Iraq.

He was in a convoy that was hit by a roadside bomb and rocket propelled grenade. Blankenbecler died of his injuries on Oct. 1, 2003.

“Command Sgt. Maj. Blankenbecler was a good man who cared about his soldiers; this is a great legacy to his name,” Dominguez said.

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