Kilgore Holds Soldier Rally Send Off - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

7/29/06-Kilgore

Kilgore Holds Soldier Rally Send Off

A salute to modern-day heroes, and their commitment to fighting for freedom, brought several thousand people out to a Kilgore stadium this morning. It was a ceremony called Operation Pride, as 180 national guardsmen from all over Texas prepare to be deployed to Iraq.  

More than 3,000 people gathered at Kilgore's R.E. St. John Stadium to give a patriotic send off to the men and women of B Company 3rd Battalion, 144th Infantry, preparing to go to Iraq for 18 months.

Complete with military fly-over, it was a chance to say the things to our soldiers we never get the chance to say in person.

"Even for most of us who've served, it's difficult to contemplate and 18-month deployment," said one senior officer.

"What a special day at Kilgore.  East Texas always steps up when it comes to being patriots and patriotic this is the place to be," said Congressman Louie Gohmert.

Numerous dignitaries spoke, praising the commitment of the troops. For parents it was bitter sweet:  a fear for their safety, but pride in their service.

"I feel like a lot of people have forgotten what happened on 911 and this is a good reminder to everyone way our soldiers are over there," said Janie Rogers, whose son is in B Company.

For the soldiers it's welcome support.  "Good motivation for the troops and it's good closure for the families saying goodbye... the families realize they are going off but well supported by the community and the state," said corporal Aaron Rippee.

They leave their homes and heart-broken families, but take something extra with them as they go.

The troops leave for fort Dix New Jersey on Monday for desert training, and will be deployed to Iraq in October.

Bob Hallmark, Reporting.  bhallmark@kltv.com

 

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