PABRADE, Lithuania — Troopers assigned to 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, took the opportunity to team up with Lithuanian military cadets from the General Povilas Plechavicius cadet lyceum to be good stewards of the environment through a partnership of building and placing bird houses.
“It was exhilarating going to hang bird houses and working with our counterparts,” Sgt. Quindrekis Perrien, 2nd Bn., 8th Cav. Regt. human resources manager, said. “The height of the trees and the wind blowing were challenging but I had fun.”
More than 30 recently constructed bird homes were hung in the Kaunas, Lithuanian, forest. With only one ladder available, troopers and cadets climbed trees and used wooden poles to hang the houses. The wind made it more difficult to hang the houses in upper branches of birch trees.
With teamwork and perseverance, the troopers and cadets hung all the houses within an hour.
With the mission complete, all the participants moved to a covered area as rain began to fall. Traditional Lithuanian soup and bread were shared by all before the group moved to a historical area to learn about the struggles of the Lithuanian military as they gained their independence from the Soviet Union.
“The soup was really good,” Sgt. Dominic Daniels, a supply specialist assigned to 2nd Bn., 8th Cav. Regt., said. “It was very lemony but good.”
As the group arrived at the historical site, they walked a narrow snow-covered path. The Vytis cross was suspended above the path as the group neared a panel of photos and stone memorial dedicated to the Lithuanian Freedom Fighters.
“It was humbling,” Capt. Spenser Swafford, fires support officer, said. “Getting to know the history of the resistance fighters. It really put into perspective our purpose here in Europe.”
Swafford, along with the team of volunteers, walked in the footsteps of the fighters along narrow and steep trails through the forest. A small stream bubbled in the background as the sounds of branches breaking underfoot interrupted the silence of the forest.
The group came to a small shelter built into the ground. No larger than an American sedan, they learned the shelter housed as many as 20 fighters as they planned their defense of their homeland.
“It was surprising how big it was once you got inside,” Daniels said of the small shelter’s entrance. “I was surprised to find out 20 people could fit in there.”
The volunteers learned of the daily life and struggles of supply lines interruptions, snow conditions and food shortages for the fighters as they occupied that small area of forest for over 10 years. The struggles were worth the efforts of the fighters as they emerged victorious, gaining their independence.
The volunteers left the memorial and troopers stopped to pose at the lone wooden marker denoting the entrance to the site.
“Without a shadow of a doubt,” Perrien said. “I would go do this again.”