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Hometown Veterans: Bedford’s Heroes

Updated: May. 27, 2021 at 11:30 AM EDT
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BEDFORD COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ) - Military life is not easy, but for the National Guard, it can be especially challenging. You’re still living a fairly normal life, training here and there, and then in a split second you must drop everything, say your goodbyes and prepare to sacrifice your life.

Driving through Bedford, Virginia, you’ll notice it is a Purple Heart community. An honor given to a hometown to remember military personnel wounded or killed in combat.

When most people think of Bedford’s military, they think of the Bedford Boys; 19 boys from Bedford, all part of the Army National Guard’s Alpha Company 116th Regiment, who died on D-Day. But not all Bedford’s heroes are gone.

Bruce Deel is what you’d consider a modern-day Bedford boy. Just like the Bedford Boys, he served in the Army National Guard’s Alpha Company 116th Regiment. “We take a lot of pride in our unit. Having that history of the original Bedford Boys. Everyone just takes pride in it and we always tried to be the best,” explained Deel.

For Deel, it all started in the early ’90s. A very young Bruce tagged along with a friend to go see a recruiter. He had no intention of joining the military. “So, did he end up joining, your friend? He did not! Just me!”

Deel signed on with the guard at an 11 Bravo—infantry. “It was basically one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer we would do an annual training,” said Deel.

This back and forth lifestyle went on for quite some time, but in 2004, Bruce went from “weekend warrior” to the front lines in Afghanistan. “I was working and married at the time, had two children, life was busy and all of the sudden you have to drop your whole life to go overseas.”

Deel was deployed to Afghanistan for the country’s first presidential election and played a vital role. “We secured the election ballots. We had to haul them from our base to another base. They were really worried that insurgents would try to stop the first election.”

His deployment ended and Bruce was back home safe with his family, five years passed and in 2010 he got another phone call. Bruce had to drop everything again and deploy. This time to Iraq. “There were tons of stuff to do. One thing that’s probably overlooked is getting everything ready so that the wife can take care of everything while I’m gone. It was tough. Anytime you leave your family it’s just hard.”

Deel served 20 years and retired in 2012. His wife and three teenage girls keep him busy. The best part is there is no lurking deployment. Serving with Bedford’s Alpha Company 116th regiment holds honor. Deel says he’ll remember his experience for the rest of his life.

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