U.S. Marine Sgt. Calvin Gatch III, Platteville, was among 200 Marines in attendance at Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta's visit to Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan recently. "It was a wonderful opportunity to listen to him speak about his childhood and how hard his parents worked and sacrificed to give him opportunities for a quality education and the chance to have a fulfilling life," said Gatch in an e-mail to The Platteville Journal. "He spoke about the progress that we have made here in Afghanistan and why it has been worth the fight for over ten years now. He was sincere, humble and appreciative for our service and applauded the multi-national effort to bring peace and stabilty to the Afghan people. He took the time to personally meet every person in attendance. It was a honor at the end of this deployment to meet him."
When it came to the question and answer session, Gatch was one of three Marines who stood up and asked a question. "I was not prepared with a question, but after the first two questions were finished and he asked for a final question, the room was silent," said Gatch. "I realized that I did not want to miss the chance to personally address the Secretary and so I stood up and introduced myself and asked simply what message I should take home to my wife and three children that still do not fully understand why I had to leave them for so long. His response reflected back on the horror of 9/11 and the commitment that our country has made to fight terrorism all over the world so that our children hopefully do not ever have to experience a day like that again."
"I would not have made it through the challenges of this deployment without all of the love and support from my famliy and friends," added Gatch. "Thank you for your thoughts and prayers during this time."