A Letter from a Soldier

posted on Monday, August 29, 2016 in Blog

To the team at Riesterer & Schnell, Inc.


Before I say thank you for the t-shirts, I want to start off by telling you a little about myself.


My name is Hallie Gracia (Fehrenbach). I was born and raised in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. When my dad died during my senior year of high school, I decided to join the Wisconsin Army National Guard, because it was something my father was very supportive of and I wanted to make him proud.


I attended BCT (Basic Combat Training) and AIT (Advanced Individual Training) at Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri in the Summer and Fall of 2013. Once all of my training was complete, I went to my unit at the 1157th Transportation Company in Oshkosh as a Chemical Operations Specialist. The easiest way for me to explain what I do as a “CBRN Specialist” is that I am able to detect when a chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear attack has happened, and then be able to protect ourselves and decontaminate the attack. I loved being in my unit because it was in the town I grew up in, so I had friends in my unit that I had grown up with and went to school with, and the armory was only a few miles from where I lived. However, when I was in BCT, I became good friends with a guy named Josh Gracia.


He helped me through some of my hardest days during training, as well as helped me cope with the loss of my father since it was still so recent that I lost him. When we graduated from Basic, we made it a point to stay in touch, since he was going to AIT to be a truck driver and I was going to AIT to do chemical operations. It was at this time that we admitted that we had “crushes” on each other, if you will, and became curious about pursuing a relationship. The only downfall was that I was from Oshkosh, Wisconsin and he was from Taunton, Massachusetts.


How would we make things work, being from different parts of the country? After all my training was complete, I took a few trips to Massachusetts and he took a few trips to Wisconsin. We dated long-distance for roughly six months before I decided to pack up all of my things and make the big move. I transferred from the 1157th Transportation Company in Oshkosh to the 1060th Transportation Company in Framingham, Massachusetts, the same unit that Josh was in. The two of us were blessed enough to get an apartment together and get into the same unit together, and now deploy together, as a couple. Not many people can say the same.


Josh and I got engaged and are now happily married, and we reside in New Bedford, Massachusetts. We aren’t sure where this life will take us, or where we will decide to settle down, but one thing is for sure: We love Wisconsin.


From left to right: Specialist Daniel Kelly (22) from Raynham, Massachusetts; Specialist Joshua Gracia (23) from Taunton, Massachusetts. Specialist Hallie Gracia (22) from Oshkosh, Wisconsin; Specialist Christopher “CJ” Bumpus (20) from Berkley, Massachusetts; Staff Sergeant Benjamin Conroy, (35) from Burrillville, Rhode Island.


This is my closest group of friends here. SPC Kelly and SPC Bumpus are the jokesters of the group...always doing whatever it takes to keep the group laughing. Josh and I are the only married couple in the unit which makes us unique, and we love having such a great group of friends. And SSG Conroy is the oldest and highest ranking of us all, which makes him someone we all look up to.

We have spent the last eight months in Kuwait under Operation Inherent Resolve - Spartan Shield, transporting vehicles, tanks, ammunition and supplies throughout Kuwait. We only have a couple weeks left here before we will be back in the United States and we could not be more excited! Although deployment is coming to an end, we cannot put into words how blessed we feel to have your continued support. I left Wisconsin to be with the love of my life in Massachusetts, and left Massachusetts to defend our freedom in Kuwait...so I miss home a lot, but will never forget where I came from. I love that we have these shirts to wear and represent a small piece of my home. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. Not only for the shirts, but for working with me to get them here, and most importantly, thank you for your support.

Sincerely, Hallie Gracia