Man on mission to share stories of Bravo Battery

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 14, 2005

An Andalusia native is helping the loved ones of area National Guard members stay informed on their unit's activities.

Thad Straughn recently traveled with members of the 1/117th Battalion, Bravo Battery as they journeyed to Atterbury, Indiana, for extensive training prior to deployment to Iraq.

Straughn has created a blog at

Visitors to the blog can read profiles and see high-resolution photos of the members of Bravo, made up of guardsmen from Butler, Crenshaw and Covington counties.

They can also read and see photos of various training activities, from learning how to properly load trucks and qualifying with weapons to gas mask training.

Straughn, a retired civil servant and former Guardsman who served as both Intelligence and Communications NCO for the battalion, says he has strong ties and a "deep affection" for the men of the 1/117th.

"It's like a tradition…my uncle, Marvin Hammett was my original first sergeant, still alive and well at 90. My father and his twin brother both served in this unit in the '30s, and a lot of my cousins were in the Guard, too," Straughn said.

Straughn's son also joined the Andalusia unit when he was a junior in high school, later working full-time with the Guard in Andalusia, Gadsden and Mobile.

For Straughn, traveling with and sharing the stories of the men of Bravo Battery is a very personal mission.

"When I first learned of the possible activation of the 1/117th, I began praying to my God for some way to actually help these younger men. The answer came through loud and clear," he said.

With his son's assistance, Straughn set up the blog site. With a laptop, digital camera and camcorder, all the retired Guardsman had to do was convince the "management."

"My OK went all the way to the top…in the meantime, I had to get local papers to employ me as a freelance reporter," he explained.

"The Army furnishes me with meals and a bed. What more could I ask for?"

As a Christian, Straughn says he feels "very compelled" to at least direct the men of Bravo toward a Christian life before it is too late.

"They are the ones who will soon be in a very hostile environment and you and I know soldiers are killed or maimed there almost daily."

Leaving behind his wife and their comfortable home on Gannt Lake hasn't been easy, but Straughn believes the difference he can make is worth the sacrifice.

"I honestly believe my mission here was directed by Jesus Christ, otherwise I wouldn't be here. My wife concurs…I have told her anytime she wants me home, I could be home in about 12 hours," Straughn said.

Straughn keeps the focus of the blog on the men of Bravo Battery. "Telling their stories is what this is all about. I urge folks to see what is going on with these citizen soldiers as they prepare to serve their country overseas."