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Community support requested as 913th prepares to deploy

Community support requested as 913th prepares to deploy
By GLENDA CAUDLE
Special Features Editor
Where were you Oct. 16, 2006?
If you called Obion County or the surrounding area home, you might have been one of those hundreds of people lining the highways and streets leading to the National Guard Armory. You might have been waving flags or holding up homemade posters or flashing the lights on your automobile. You were likely wiping away happy tears.
After all, “our” soldiers came home from Iraq that day. Members of the 913th Engineer Co. returned — except for hero Spec. 4 Dustin Laird who gave his life on the battlefield and Sgt. George Sykes and Sgt. Kenji Yamauchi, who were wounded in the same incident and were still undergoing treatment — to families and friends and a community so proud of their service and so grateful for their homecoming.
It was a day of rejoicing.
On Aug. 18, our community will be sending the 913th off to do battle in the name of our country again. The circumstances are different, but it is our privilege and our responsibility to make sure the memories the soldiers carry with them as they depart for Kuwait are as positive and affirming and encouraging as those that surround the earlier homecoming, say veterans who have faced similar circumstances.
Plans are already in the works to make sure our soldiers have no doubts about the support that will be offered to them and the families they leave behind during the coming months of service to their country.
The Patriot Guard motorcycle group, including Billy Laird, whose son gave his life in Iraq, will lead the parade planned to escort the troops as they leave town. The parade will move out from the National Guard Armory with a police escort marking the route that will include streets closed to through traffic.
Fire engines will also call attention to the importance of the occasion with their own unique call to the senses.
Those elements are all important to establishing the conditions under which the soldiers will bid farewell to their loved ones and their community. But the truly vital element, those families and fellow soldiers say, is the proof that those who call this place home will be standing behind them with pride, prayer and practical assistance.
“What they need is support from the community — local churches, community groups, organizations of all kinds, plus family and friends,” says Sarah Kay, who is president of the 913th Family Readiness Group. “During the previous deployment for the 913th, the local outpouring in the form of signs and banners and flags — that just meant so much, so much more than people realize.”
An indication of the commitment to make that happen, then, will almost certainly take the form of colorful banners, posters and signs whose display will begin immediately. The size and level of excitement displayed by crowds lining the parade route on Aug. 18 as the troops leave town cannot be falsely generated, but it can be planned immediately and put into effect with a full range of enthusiasm and gratitude for the work the volunteers will be doing overseas.
Several organizers are encouraging families and businesses to begin to display supportive notices right away and to turn out in record numbers to hold those signs aloft, to wave small flags and to stand beneath larger banners and flags posted along the streets. Businesses are being reminded to take advantage of marquees to post support.
Ed Southern, who is the Jones-Walker Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4862 quartermaster and the Tennessee State Chief of Staff, said the local VFW has ordered 1,400 small flags to add to those they already have on hand. Volunteers from the post will be handing these out all up and down the parade route Aug. 18 as crowds gather in preparation for the leave-taking.
“People can accept these small flags from us that day, but they can bring things of their own, as well. Anything they can do to show their good will and let these soldiers know they are wishing them God-speed and a safe journey and return home will be remembered and valued. We hosted a dinner recently for our guardsmen and it was something I don’t think any of us will forget,” says Southern.
Such a visible outpouring of support, veterans who understand leave taking from a different perspective say, should then be followed up with day-by-day assistance for the families that are left behind.
“It might be something as simple as mowing the lawn or offering to baby-sit for a couple of hours for a family missing a mom or dad. It might be a regular phone call to see if there is anything the family needs or a regular letter, e-mail or package sent to their soldier. Each one of us will have some way we can provide caring support and do our part for those who are giving so much for us,” one said recently.
“Deployments are always hard on the soldiers but I think it’s even harder on the ones left behind,” adds Mrs. Kay. “We wonder where they are every minute of every day and we hope and pray for a safe return. The soldiers and their families, both, are making a great sacrifice to ensure that we have continued freedom. As a family member of the 913th, I ask that people check on your neighbors while their soldier is gone and lend a helping hand, because that soldier is fighting for our freedom and helping to make the world a better place and they don’t ask for much in return.
“If you see a soldier or know a soldier from past or present, please don’t forget to thank them for a job well done.
“Our lives, as family members, come to a shocking stand-still as our soldiers leave and take a part of us with them. Without the continued support of our community and organizations and friends, we would not make it through another deployment,” she says.
Capt. Jacob Partridge of the 913th said no definite time has been established for the exodus at this point, but he has discussed some preliminary plans for the start of the 12-month deployment with local law enforcement and is aware that the Patriot Riders plan to be part of the event. The soldiers will be traveling to the Memphis airport and mobilizing at Fort Bliss, Texas, for Kuwait, where they will replace another unit.
The tasks allotted to the 164 soldiers will be centered on the use of the earth-moving equipment they are experts at manipulating. On the other side of the world, the horizontal engineer company will be handling that equipment to prepare sites for vertical construction.
“I would like to see people come out and show support for troops that are leaving. Just showing up is the best sign of support,” Partridge says.
Additional information about the deployment will be published as it is made available to The Messenger.
For more information, contact Clay Woods at 694-2882.
Mrs. Caudle may be contacted at glendacaudle@ucmessenger.com.

Published in The Messenger 8.8.11

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