Beyond the obligatory acknowledgements on Memorial and Veteran’s Days, how often do we consider the day-to-day struggles or dangers that U.S. soldiers deployed in areas of conflict suffer? In inherently treacherous environments, U.S. military forces risk their lives, sacrifice personal comforts and painfully separate from family and friends in order to protect the hard-won freedoms of the American people.
Many of these soldiers are the sons and daughters of our neighbors, friends, and loved ones. Their contributions to protecting our country are invaluable.
Mamaroneck High School (MHS) graduate and Larchmont resident Malcolm Gerard Ohl—a 1st Lieutenant in the Army—was predestined to be a soldier, with a family legacy of Air Force pilots and other military personnel to carry on.
At MHS, Malcolm Ohl played varsity ice hockey and lacrosse, was an AP Honors Scholar, built houses for Habitat for Humanity and founded MHS’s conservative newsletter “The Beacon.”
He enrolled in the ROTC program at Boston College in 2005, and trained with the rigor of, “an NCAA division one athlete” said his mother, Irene Byrne Ohl, before being commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant the day before he graduated in 2009.
By January 2011, Malcolm Ohl had been awarded an Army Medal of Achievement for distinguished service after he successfully led his platoon in transferring their assets from Alaska to Afghanistan, no small feat for a 24-year old.
Although Malcolm Ohl and his platoon were ranked number one by operation commanders in after field war exercises at the National Training Center (NTC) in March, 2011, it was a sobering reality to find out that the honor would not necessarily safeguard them against militant forces abroad.
“When we are in Afghanistan, this ranking means nothing to the Taliban,” commented Malcolm Ohl perceptively.
This week Malcolm Ohl and his platoon will be deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan from Fairbanks, Alaska as part of the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division 2-8 (2nd Battalion-8th Field Artillery).
And even though Irene Byrne Ohl remains steadfastly confident in her son’s abilities as a soldier, her motherly instincts inspire some trepidation.
“There’s worry,” she said in reference to her son’s deployment, “It comes and goes in waves.”
When asked if the landscape for soldiers would change at all after the recent news that Osama bin Laden had been killed, Irene Byrne Ohl expressed relief, tempered with a dose of reality. “It doesn’t bring our service men and women out of harm’s way,” she said, urging Americans to continue to be vigilant.
If you’d like to write a letter of support to Malcolm Ohl or any of the troops in his battalion mail it to: Lt. Malcolm Ohl, 4 Shadow Ln., Larchmont, NY 10538. The troops appreciate letters more than any other single material arrival from the U.S. and, with this simple gesture, you can help brighten a soldier’s day.
Editor's Note: A previous version of this article referred to Malcolm Ohl's battalion when it should have been platoon. The correction has been made.