Enough to say grace over | Arkansas Blog

Enough to say grace over

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Who said John Brummett was grumpy? He gives a warm-spirited list of things to be thankful for. (I think I'd have put Shalah at the top, John. Not that she's the type to notice such a thing.)

By the way: If you haven't seen this week's paper, Bob Lancaster's column is another masterpiece of the thanks genre.

My embarrassment of riches begins with Ellen, Martha and Fritz, then moves pretty quickly to covering the news and the technology that has put us back in that game -- at all hours, as last night, with video even. Blogging wouldn't be nearly so much fun without my co-conspirators, the 2,500 or so who are registered commenters on the Arkansas Blog and the thousands (130,000 unique visitors in October) who are just drive-by participants. Thanks. Let's eat.

ALSO: On the jump, the National Guard (and all of us) began welcoming home the 39th Infantry Brigade from its long and difficult duty in Iraq.

CAMP SHELBY JOINT FORCES TRAINING CENTER, Miss. - Shedding tears of joy on
the eve of Thanksgiving, a number of Arkansas Families gave thanks here one
day early as they welcomed their Soldiers home from Iraq. 

Approximately 160 members of the Arkansas Army National Guard's Crossett and
El Dorado based Troop A, 1st Squadron, 151st Cavalry Regiment, arrived here
late Wednesday night, leading the way home for the 39th Infantry Brigade
Combat Team.   The remainder of the brigade's 3,200 Soldiers is scheduled to
return throughout the month of December.

The brigade has conducted a security mission throughout various locations in
Iraq since it initially deployed in late March 2008.  Based in the
International Zone of Baghdad, Troop A alone conducted well over 1,000
personal security detail missions during their eight months on the ground in
Iraq.

"My guys executed personal security detail missions for the U.S. Department
of State, the United Nations, and the Baghdad Provincial Reconstruction
Team," said Troop A's commander, Capt. Jeffery Westbrook, of Benton, Ark.
"We were actually tasked with escorting the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, the
special representative to the secretary general of the U.N., as well as other
reps from the U.S. Department of Justice."

Although the return home came with multiple delays and timeline shifts,
seeing their Families in time for the holidays left the Soldiers and their
Families with a common emotion.

"It feels great.  Glad to be home," said Spc. Curtis Aiken, of Hamburg, Ark.,
who was holding his daughter Kirsten in his arms with wife Stephanie by his
side.  "I'm very thankful I made it back."

Aiken's was one of roughly 75 Family members who made the long drive from
Arkansas to Camp Shelby in hopes of spending Thanksgiving with their
returning Soldier.  Due to arriving so close to the holiday, the Soldiers
were released for the evening and allowed to spend the holiday with their
Families who made the trip. 

Although these Soldiers have made it back to the states, their mobilization
is not yet over.  The troops begin the four-to-five-day demobilization
process at Camp Shelby Friday morning - a process the adjutant general asked
them not to take lightly.

"We ask that our Soldiers take the demobilization process seriously and
discuss any issues they have as a result of the deployment, whether it is
something as simple as back pain or something as complex as post traumatic
stress," Maj. Gen. William Wofford wrote in a letter to the Soldiers and
their Families.  "We ask that the Families of these Soldiers encourage them
to be candid during the demobilization process in order to help us help them.
The only thing better than having your loved one home for the holidays is
having them home and healthy during the holidays for years to come."  

As the general addressed the Soldiers and their Families at the welcome home
ceremony he thanked them for their service and their sacrifice.  He also
asked them to remember the words of former President Ronald Reagan when
reflecting on that sacrifice.

"You need to remember that freedom is never more than one generation away
from extinction," quoted the general.  "It's not something that's passed down
in the bloodstream.  It's a responsibly of each generation to protect that
freedom, to preserve it, and sometimes to have to fight for it - just as you
have done.  Because if we don't do that, one of these days in our sunset
years, we'll be telling our children and our children's children, what it was
like to live in a country when men were free." 

The 39th Brigade was the first National Guard brigade combat team to deploy
for a second tour in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.  About half of the
brigade had deployed on the first mobilization which ran from October 2003 to
April 2005. 

Comprised of Soldiers from all four corners of the state, the 39th Brigade
was initially called to active duty for training in preparation for this
second deployment on October 1, 2007, and was federally mobilized the
following January.

Since September 11, 2001, the Arkansas National Guard as a whole has
mobilized over 11,200 Soldiers and Airmen in support of the global war on
terrorism.

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