October 10, 2007 Edition

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Welcome home celebrations are
reminder of new deployments

Gretchen Hunt
Editor

Saturday morning I woke up early and got in my car to drive up to Highway 49 to greet the first buses returning with members of the 875th Engineer Battalion. They had approximated their arrival in Paragould at 7 a.m., so I left my house about 6:15 expecting to be in Goobertown before 6:30.

I had traveled about a half mile from my house when I heard them announce on the radio that the buses were headed north through Brookland and would be in Paragould in a matter of minutes. Realizing I did not have time to make it, I returned home and watched their arrival on TV.

Every image brought tears to my eyes, as did each of the banners as I drove along Highway 49 from Jonesboro to Brookland the previous evening.

The tears were, of course, tears of joy for the soldiers and their families who were at long last reunited. But, they were also tears of distress for those who remain deployed and those who are preparing to go.

In addition to learning that our local unit here in Walnut Ridge is to be deployed again, I recently learned that my pastor at Brookland United Methodist Church will be deployed, as well.

Red tape had prevented him from going with his unit, the 875th. He welcomed them home on Saturday and then left for Fort Chaffee on Monday morning.

While the soldiers are proud and willing to serve, a yearlong trip to Iraq is undoubtedly not high on their list of desires. As the war has continued, and support for the effort has waned, it is always a concern that support for our soldiers might fade as well.

Perhaps we might get bored with the same old, same old another group leaving, another group coming home. Apathy can take hold easily, especially when the conflict seems to have drug on so long already.

As we sat at church discussing our pastor's upcoming days as he prepares to not only travel to Iraq, but also to minister to the soldiers as a chaplain, we decided one thing for sure. We could not control if or when or how he had to leave, but we can decide how we will act while he is gone and how we will welcome him home.

One gentleman in the congregation, who served in Vietnam, said his heart was filled with joy to see the welcome the 875th received. He said it was a much different welcome than troops received when returning from Vietnam.

We should remember every night as we settle into our beds that they are suffering hardships and risking their lives in service to our country. I hope and pray that though individuals may not support the war, the support of our soldiers remains strong.

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