During the recent Pennsylvania Department of Veterans of Foreign Wars’ Mid-Winter Conference in Pittsburgh, more than 350 VFW leaders and members honored Pennsylvania Army National Guard Staff Sergeant Brian J. Reighard of Windber as the latest recipient of the prestigious Pennsylvania VFW Eagle Award. The VFW Department presents this award to recognize Commonwealth Guardians for the significant impact they have had on overseas military campaign success to preserve the cause of freedom.

SSG. Reighard was nominated by the Pennsylvania Adjutant General’s Office for his distinguished overseas service during Operation Iraqi Freedom and during his deployment to Afghanistan. He currently serves as a Training NCO with the PAARNG 28th Infantry Division’s 252nd Engineer Company based in Johnstown.

“The Pennsylvania VFW presents this award to Pennsylvania Guardians who make significant contributions to preserving freedom,” said VFW State Commander Thomas A. Brown, noting that the award recipient is a lifetime member of Pennsylvania Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4795 in Windber. “The VFW knows that mission success requires outstanding personnel at all levels, who efficiently and effectively carry out their responsibilities. We’ve honored battlefield heroes, personnel in support and medical roles, aviation specialists and command leaders—all who have continued our state’s long and distinguished history of military excellence.

“Staff Sergeant Reighard’s outstanding service operating in very dangerous environments demonstrates that he fulfilled and exceeded his duties during numerous foreign deployments including combat zone service to Afghanistan and Iraq. His willingness to do whatever is necessary to advance the mission is commendable. His State, Nation and the VFW appreciate his dedication and commitment to being a modern-day American patriot. We’re proud to have him in the ranks of the VFW and to recognize his continued military service with this award.”

Reflecting on receiving the award, SSG. Reighard commented, “I am really thankful for receiving his award and appreciate the outstanding treatment that I was given at the VFW conference. The reception I received was full of warm camaraderie. The fact that veterans from all service eras showed their pride in me as a combat veteran—when they didn’t know more about me than was read in my bio—was very moving.

“Each veteran in the conference room had their own story and combat zone experience. I was  overwhelmed  that they treated me as one of their own—as a brother who like them served in harm’s way. I was impressed because they really have an impressive story about their service, and they paved the way for my generation of soldiers to do what we do. It made me proud of my past service and being able to continue serving in the military.

“I enjoy being active in the VFW and look forward to serving my Post to the best of my ability because I believe in the VFW mission. I am honored to serve with the people I do, and especially proud to be carrying on a great name for those who have served and allowed me to do what I do today.”

Sgt. Reighard began his military career with the 876th Engineer Battalion as a combat engineer in 2004. His unit mobilized with the 2nd Brigade Combat Team to Ar Ramadi, Iraq, in 2005 and 2006. He served as an M-113 track driver and eventually became a M-249 gunner on the lead vehicle of the convoy that patrolled up and down Route Mobile.

Then Private First Class Reighard was involved in an improvised explosive device attack were three of the vehicle occupants were wounded. He administered first aid and sprinted to the next vehicle where a medic was located to inform him of the situation.  He took a position on the M-2 50 caliber machine gun and provided cover while the wounded soldiers received care and were evacuated.

He returned from Iraq and became a pre-basic training instructor. He spent a year and a half coaching, counseling and mentoring newly enlisted soldiers on the fundamentals that they would need while at basic training. He also attended the Pennsylvania Area Highlands Community College where he received an Associate’s Degree in computer aided drafting.

Sgt. Reighard was deployed with the 856th Engineer Company to Taji, Iraq during 2008 and 2009. He was in charge of force protection and base improvement projects. While at Taji, he submitted a packet to the 166 Regiment at Ft. Indiantown Gap, Annville, for the position of small group instructor. While deployed, he was selected for an AGR position with a 166th Regiment as a Warrior Leadership Course instructor.

He was promoted to the rank of staff sergeant, and became a heavily relied upon asset within the Regiment.

Staff Sergeant Reighard competed in and won the PA Best Warrior Competition and moved onto the 2012 regional Best Warrior Competition at Fort Pickett, Virginia. His tactical and technical proficiency gave him the ability to once again finish at the top and beat out the rest of region’s NCO competitors.

He competed at Fort Benning’s National Guard Best Warrior Competition against the top 10 NCOs in the country, where he proved himself as one of the best NCOs in the National Guard by finishing fourth out of 10 competitors.

In 2014, he applied for the position of Training NCO at the 252nd Engineer Company. The company mobilized and deployed to Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan. Staff Sgt. Reighard’s squad executed missions at multiple bases across Afghanistan. His squad was responsible for the successful completion of the CENTCOM Material Retrograde Element Mission.

Some of SSG Reighard’s medals, decorations and awards include:

  • Combat Action Badge
  • Global War on Terrorism Medal
  • Iraq Campaign Medal, awarded twice
  • NATO Medal
  • National Defense Service Medal
  • Army Good Conduct Medal, awarded three times
  • Army Achievement Medal, awarded four times
  • Army Commendation, awarded three times
  • Meritorious Service Medal, awarded two times
  • And, numerous others.

SSG Reighhard is not new to the VFW at a local level. During a welcome home event for the 252nd Engineering Company—that Winber Post 4795 participated in—Staff Sergeant Reighard spoke with Post Commander Robert Foster about the VFW. Not long after that he became a member in the Post. Today, he’s more than just a name on the Post roster.

Staff Sergeant is a very active member of Post 4795. Chosen by the Post Commander to be a part of the Ritual Team, he calls commands as the Post Honor Guard Commander and rifleman for the 21-gun salute. He marches in numerous parades each year. This Guardian attends monthly VFW meetings and desires to serve in a Post Officer position. In the future, this fine American hopes to serve his VFW Post as Commander.

Caption: PA Army National Guard Staff Sergeant Brian J. Reighard proudly holds the Pennsylvania VFW Eagle Award. The award was presented by VFW State Commander Thomas A. Brown with Brigadier General George Schwartz, Assistant Adjutant General of Pennsylvania participating in the presentation. (Photo by David Sandman/PA VFW HQs)

 

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