Welcome home, troops!

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 14, 2006

Saturday, Dec. 2, was a special day for some very special people.

A big crowd came out to enjoy the Chamber's annual Christmas parade in downtown Luverne, with one of the parade entries bringing pride and joy to everyone who saw them.

The Luverne Guard of the Battery B 1/117th Field Artillery Unit recently returned home from Iraq, and they waved to the crowds as they walked down South Forest Avenue.

After the parade, a special reception at the Harrison Cultural Center was held for the Luverne Unit and their families in their honor.

Luverne Mayor Joe Rex Sport thanked the soldiers and their families for coming to the reception, but he especially thanked them for their service to their country.

&#8220You never stand so tall as when you serve your country,” Sport said. &#8220You have done just that, and we are proud of you, and we thank you.”

The unit was deployed to Iraq on Aug. 21, 2005.

The mayor and the Luverne City Council presented each soldier with a plaque in honor and recognition of his service.

&#8220We know that you have sacrificed precious time away from your family, and we want to express our sincere gratitude to you for all that each of you has done,” Sport said. &#8220We salute you, and we take pride in you.”

Sport also commended the soldiers' families for &#8220standing behind them” while they were serving their country.

&#8220We appreciate and are very proud of the way all of you have represented our community,” he said.

Sport said that even though he was a veteran, he hadn't thought much about it until about two or three years ago when his family asked him about his medals.

&#8220I got the medals all together for my children and grandchildren, and I made shadowboxes out of them,” Sport said. &#8220I even included my dog tagsŠ.when I presented them to my two grandsons, they froze when they saw themŠ.they took pride in those things.”

&#8220You need to know what you mean to your family and loved ones,” an emotional Sport said to the soldiers.

SGT Bobby Beasley gave a special presentation of his own on behalf of the unit to Hilda Maddox.

&#8220We had boxes coming to us from home the whole time we were overseas,” Beasley said. &#8220Before we even left, while we were gone and since we have come home, Hilda Maddox has supported us. We can't thank her enough for that.”

Beasley and the unit presented Maddox with a special plaque and a big hug.

SGT Beasley, whom Mayor Sport referred to as &#8220the daddy of the unit,” said that there was no way they would ever be able to see everyone and thank everyone who sent packages and letters to the unit while they were overseas.

&#8220No matter how big or small it was, it meant everything to us,” Beasley said.

&#8220When it came to getting mail, you could just see it in their eyes,” he continued. &#8220If they didn't get anything that day, they'd just say, ‘Well, maybe tomorrow.'”

Beasley said that as everyone enjoys the holiday season, they need to remember that there are still men and women in uniform fighting overseas.

&#8220Don't forget about them,” he said, in his quiet voice. &#8220They are definitely in harm's way.”

The special reception was sponsored by the City of Luverne, Mayor Joe Rex Sport and the Luverne City Council, local businesses, and family and friends of the soldiers. Sandy Walker, with the help of her sister Jill Andrews, prepared two tables beautifully adorned with Christmas trees and red and green decorations. The tables were filled with foods, luscious desserts and special hors d'oeuvres. A third table was decorated and set up for serving punch.

The Luverne Guard includes Captain Christopher Chisum, First SGT David Sanders, SFC Calvin Rogers, SSG Jerry Jordan, SSG James McGough, SGT Bobby Beasley, SGT William Harrison, SGT Ricky Mitchell, SGT Robert Perdue, SGT Luther Quillen, SPC Dion Patrick Boyce, SPC Justin Flowers, SPC Jeffery Jeffcoat, SPC Jeffery Johnson, SPC Samuel Lavon Lowery, SPC Jeffery Ledon Ludlum, SPC Carl Massey, SPC Eric Dewayne Roper, SPC Lyndon Zachary Sewell, SPC Steven Douglas Sexton, SPC James Lee Taylor, and SPC Terry Lavon Woodson.