LOCKPORT – Christopher Czarnecki walked a fine line in Afghanistan where he said there were days he felt like he was playing Russian roulette. Not every day, but there was no guarantee, he said.
But back home, exactly one year and eight days after retiring from his 36-year career, Czarnecki had the opportunity to shake the hand of another veteran with whom he served in the thick of it. That person was State Senator Rob Ortt who decided Czarnecki was his nominee for the 2021 New York State Senate Veterans Hall of Fame class.
“We fought together,” Czarnecki said. “We fought the war together. It tests you like nothing else does. It wasn’t a picnic there.
Ortt said there is a connection that people in combat feel for each other.
“There are people, I was only there with them for months,” Ortt said. “But if you saw us interacting today, you’d think we’ve known each other for 20 years. So what normally takes 20 years for a relationship to develop happens in a matter of months, because you have no choice.
On the other side of the world, however, many soldiers have families, as does Czarnecki, who boasts of three daughters, two sons-in-law, a two-year-old granddaughter and another to come.
He said there were days abroad when he didn’t think about it at all, he was so wrapped up in the mission. At the same time, his wife of 29 years said there were things she would never say to her husband while he was on duty, because she wanted him to focus on where he was. and what he was doing.
“We do what we have to do on our own,” said Carrie Czarnecki.
Czarnecki enlisted in the United States Army in 1984 in the United States Army Reserves. In 1997, he competed for the New York State NCO of the Year and won it for the 42nd Infantry Division.
Command Sergeant Major (CSM) Czarnecki was at Ground Zero in New York after the destruction of the World Trade Center, served with the U.S. Border Patrol on the Arizona-Mexico border, and was Calvary’s first sergeant for Troop 2- 101 in Afghanistan from 2008-2009.
Czarnecki, who first met Ortt in Dunkirk before being deployed, said Ortt was a good cadet. He knew how to listen to his officers, he said.
“If you’re smart, you listen to them (NCOs like Czarnecki),” Ortt said. “And as you go along, you’re ready to be successful when you go to other units.
“Even in this job. There are days when you don’t come into the room saying that you are a senator, everyone will understand that part, but you listen to others and this is how you learn how to lead… I always take it into account even in this room. “
Each year, the State Senate hosts a program where Senators can recognize a local veteran. Czarnecki can add this to his many awards, including the World War on Terror Service Medal, Military Service Ribbon, and the Order of St. George Silver Medallion.