(Town Crier photo/Revis Blaylock)
Nowlin has been on active duty for 14 months serving with the 39th Infantry Brigade of the Arkansas National Guard serving in Baghdad, Iraq.
The latest deployment was Nowlin's third since 1999 for a total of 30 months. Nowlin has been in the Arkansas National Guard for 35 years. He holds the highest rank for a NCO in the command. His group is headquartered in Searcy.
His other deployments were part of peace keeping situations. This time it was a combat situation.
It was an emotional homecoming as high school students and Riverside staff were on hand to welcome Nowlin. Also present was Nowlin's wife, Debbie. Gale Yates, who has been filling the position of superintendent while Nowlin was away, welcomed Nowlin.
The ceremony opened with members of the Trumann ROTC presenting the colors. Staff member Monica Owens sang the National Anthem and Student Council President Lindsey Sullivan led in the Pledge of Allegiance.
"We want to welcome you back and acknowledge what you have done," Yates said.
He expressed gratitude for the military men and women that have left their families, their jobs, and their homes.
"We want to thank you and give you our respect," Yates said.
The students then gave a standing ovation to their returning superintendent.
Yates took time to review accomplishments that Riverside school had made.
Yates said all four Riverside Schools made adequate progress in school improvement last year, doing well on the Bench Mark testing, receiving the second highest score in the county on the skills test, and awarded $1,023,000 in scholarships for 2004. Accomplishments in sports included the junior high boys going undefeated for the year and the senior girls and junior boys winning the Gerald Jennings Tournament last year.
"We are lucky to work at Riverside," Yates said, as he once again welcomed Nowlin home.
Nowlin thanked everyone for the warm welcome.
The Riverside Junior High Choir presented several patriotic songs and Lisa Black sang "God Bless the USA."
Nowlin was in a combat zone his entire stay.
"We had to fight our way in and it has not slowed down much," Nowlin said. "One of our biggest worries was indirect fire. The 39th have done one heck of a job."
Nowlin said the people have been under a dictatorship and been bullied for so long they do not know how to fight back.
"Insurgents come in from other countries making it difficult," he said. "They would fire on us from crowds at a wedding or a funeral procession. The difference in our country and there is if we had insurgents move in on us, we would fight back and run them off."
He said the Iraqis that work with the military are threatened.
"We lost two interpreters that were working with us," he said. "Anyone that works with the coalition is threatened, along with their families."
He said yes, he did think that good is being done.
"I do think the majority of the people like having us there and they don't want the insurgents around making things difficult," Nowlin said. "It is a long process to rebuild a country as well as a government. There is a tremendous amount of things to deal with."
Nowlin said he is proud to be home and plans to spend time with his wife and two grown sons catching up on the last year.