January 9, 2008 Edition

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Family, friends say goodbye
to deployed Guard members

These members of the Hoxie sixth grade class were among many who lined the roadside as busses carrying members of the local National Guard unit rolled down Highway 67B. The soldiers left Walnut Ridge, Monday, bound for Mississippi to complete training and then to Iraq for a second deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
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TD Photo ~ Gretchen Hunt
John Bland

Family and friends, area citizens, school students and local officials turned out Monday morning at Robert Armory and along Hwy. 67B to say goodbye and show support to members of the local Arkansas Army National Guard unit.

Guard units from Walnut Ridge and Rector left Monday morning from Robert Armory in Walnut Ridge for Camp Shelby, Miss., to complete training before departing in a few weeks for their second tour in Iraq.

Tears flowed and many hugs and kisses given as the goodbyes were expressed to the members of A Company, Second Battalion, 153rd Infantry of the 39th Infantry Brigade. The inside of the armory and front lawn were filled as family and friends spent their last moments together with loved ones before the Guard's departure at approximately 10:40 a.m.

Members of the Lawrence County Ministerial Alliance served cookies, provided by area churches, while Kathy Bradley of the Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce handed out miniature flags, as well as tissues for those shedding tears. The flags were furnished by the Chamber and Wal-Mart.

"I was really pleased with the turnout. It was great to see the community (Lawrence County) come out and see the troops off," said Bradley. She was told that groups of people were scattered along Hwy. 67B, all the way through Hoxie to the bypass.

Even those without family members departing could not help but be moved at the sight of spouses, girlfriends, parents or children holding on for one last hug.

John Stowers of Hoxie said his wife, Connie, saw him off several years ago when he served in the first Gulf war. He said it was even harder Monday for Connie to say goodbye to their son, John, age 21, who was departing with the unit. Although this is the second deployment to Iraq by the local Guard unit, this will be the first deployment for Stowers and many other members of the unit.

The cities of Walnut Ridge and Hoxie had yellow bows tied on light and power poles along Hwy. 67B. School students from Hoxie and Walnut Ridge, along with area citizens and family members, waited along the bus route of the departing Guard unit to wave goodbye with flags and posters of encouragement.

Redda Russell and members of her family presented each Guard member with a keepsake token, containing an inspirational quote and pressed penny, to keep in his or her pocket.

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