Pinkerton grad deploys in June for Afghanistan.
|Anton and Cassie Vorsteveld are surrounded by their family at a farewell party|
in Anton’s honor. He will be shipping out to Afghanistan in June.
Union Leader Correspondent
|A journal was left out at the farewell gathering to record names|
and emails so Vorsteveld can keep in touch during his deployment.
A decade later, Vorsteveld is preparing to deploy to Afghanistan with the U.S. Army 2nd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division out of Fort Carson, a destiny he says was shaped by the impression made upon him that fateful day in September 2001, in a Junior ROTC classroom. 'When 9/11 happened it was kind of a big thing to me,' said Vorsteveld. “That’s pretty much when I made up my mind what I would do with my life, but I decided to go to college first.”
Vorsteveld graduated from Pinkerton in 2005 and attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., on a full Army ROTC scholarship, graduating in 2009 with a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering.
Just after college graduation he married his high school sweetheart, Cassie Snook, and they moved to Fort Carson in Colorado, where Vorsteveld has been training with his unit. He received word earlier this year that he would be one of 3,000 soldiers deploying to Afghanistan this summer for one year, part of a military transition under NATO to help prepare the Afghan National Security Force to become self-reliant.
But they are also battle ready.
They have been fully equipped with cold weather gear, eye protection and body armor vests lined with ballistic plates, as well as newly issued Multi-Cam, a multi-colored camouflage uniform in seven colors meant to keep soldiers hidden on the Afghan desert battlefields and elude detection by night vision devices.
But before he settles in to his new reality, Vorsteveld was able to revisit his boyhood stomping ground and enjoy an enormous group hug goodbye from his large, extended family.
On Saturday Vorsteveld was guest of honor at a special farewell celebration planned by his wife and her family in Derry, at the Upper Village Hall on East Derry Road, where about 100 friends and family gathered to reinforce their support for Vorsteveld and the mission he's about to take part in.
'It's so nice to be able to be here together,' said his mother, Wynie Vorsteveld, sitting next to her son on a bench inside the old town hall building. “It’s bittersweet. We have no family military history, so this is all new to us.”
Cassie and Anton Vorsteveld moved away from the area about a year ago, around the time his parents, Wynie and Lou, sold their Derry home and moved to New Jersey.
'Most of Anton's family comes from the Vermont area,' said Dotty Snook, Vorsteveld's mother-in-law. “To be able to have both our families here together for a send-off is wonderful — everyone is so far away now.”
She said her daughter, Cassie, was one year behind Vorsteveld at Pinkerton Academy.
'They actually met at the youth group at our church, Central Congregational Church, but didn't start dating until Cassie was a junior and Anton was a senior. And now, here we are,” Snook said.
A lot of support
During Saturday's celebration, the Vorsteveld and Snook clans enjoyed some home-cooked dishes and a patriotic sheet cake, which Vorsteveld sliced and served with military precision.
'I've always known this is what he wanted to do. It’s going to be hard, but I have a lot of support,” Cassie Vorsteveld said.
A table set up at the entrance to the hall was covered with balloons and red and blue star sequins, with a place for gifts and cards. Next to that was a leather journal and some pens with a note, urging everyone to leave a message and include an email address, so Vorsteveld can keep in touch.
His step-grandmother, Helen Snook, leaned over the leather book, pen in hand, considering what she might write at a moment like this.
"We're all so proud of Anton. This has been a nice way to say good-bye to him, all of us together in one place,” Snook said.
“I know he’ll be safe, and back home soon.”