Arkansas National Guard soldiers stood at attention, clad in their Army green camouflage uniforms, during the deployment ceremony held Saturday morning, March 29, at the Arkansas State University Armory in Jonesboro.
Ninety eight soldiers make up Alpha Company of the 875th Engineer Battalion Arkansas National Guard unit. They were leaving for the Memphis International Airport and on to Fort Lewis, Wash., for federal duty. Soldiers based in Jonesboro were mobilized March 17 to join the Oregon unit. The guard personnel could be serving for up to a year. It was a patriotic scene, as the soldiers and their families gathered in close huddles saying goodbye. The armory held a standing room only crowd of well-wishers, families and soldiers.
"I know the Alpha Company will set the bar much higher for the Oregon National Guard unit," said Major General Don Morrow, adjutant general of Arkansas National Guard. "When it is time to deploy, I never cease to be amazed at the outpouring support for our troops. I thank you for your continued support of these outstanding soldiers. I know we will all follow their progress until we have them home again. Then we we'll have another tremendous outpouring and celebration."
Morrow spoke to the soldiers and reminded them to take care of each other.
"We want to see each and every one of you back here as quickly as possible," Morrow said. "Do your job and come back to us safe and secure."
"It takes family, friends and a community to make a battalion," Col. Carol A. Johnson said.
Many activities have been held for the soldiers as they prepared to deploy. The Craighead County Veterans Foundation, made up of DAV, VFW, MOAA, and American Legion members, prepared care package/goodie bags for the soldiers. The organization's veteran's deployment committee produced a helpful soldier support handout, which is available upon request.
"We have about 200 boxes left over and want to encourage people to pick them up and mail them now to loved ones in service," said Ted Pylant, CCVF president, in Jonesboro. "It may cost $7 to $15 for individuals to mail a package, but they will surly be welcomed by the troops. If any one soldier should get too many mailed to him, he will just share them with his buddies, so the effort is not lost."
For more information on picking up a care package or a support handout, persons may call Pylant at 870-932-2268 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Advocate Emergency Service Coordinator, Judy Furr, of Jonesboro, has been busy encouraging city and county residents to put yellow ribbons at vantage points to show support for the soldiers.
Remembering loved ones with yellow ribbons became popular with the calvary song, and again in 1978-1980 with "Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree," while hostages were being held in Iran. The tradition goes on today as residents of Buffalo Island proudly display the ribbons in the front yards, on businesses, and along busy thoroughfares.
Following the deployment ceremonies at ASU, the soldiers loaded onto three buses, en route to Memphis. Streets were lined with people standing and waving goodbye to the soldiers, some held flags and homemade posters showing their support.