296th ‘welcome’ set for Saturday

Published 6:00 am Friday, January 9, 2004

Soldiers and families and friends of the Army Reserve’s 296thTransportation Company will celebrate the unit’s return from Iraqduring an official homecoming ceremony Saturday at 1 p.m. at theunit armory.

The unit celebrated briefly when the soldiers returned inSeptember 2003 from supporting combat operations in Iraq and werereunited with their families. However, Capt. Howard Taylor, thecommanding officer, said then an official homecoming would be heldat a later date to give the soldiers time to spend with theirfamilies.

“It’s more of a celebration than a ceremony,” said Taylor said.”There will be a few brief ceremonies, but we mainly wanted to givethe soldiers a chance to be with their families as a unit and anopportunity for the community to welcome them home.”

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Local, regional and state officials were invited to speakSaturday. Those who have accepted include Mayor Bill Godbold,Senators Dr. Jim Barnett and Cindy Hyde-Smith, Police Chief PapHenderson, Sheriff Wiley Calcote, and several Army officials.Several others have not confirmed.

Two ceremonies will highlight the event.

The first is the presentation of the Purple Heart medal to Spc.Brandy Taylor, who was injured March 20, 2001, during a mortarattack on the unit’s first day in the combat zone. Taylor isbelieved to the first and only female Purple Heart recipient fromMississippi, Taylor said.

Another highlighted event holds special significance to Taylor.The captain is expected to be awarded his major’s rank during apromotion ceremony.

Taylor was awarded the promotion Aug. 7 and wore it while theunit was in Iraq, but was asked to not wear it until he could be”pinned” by his superior officers. “Pinning” is a promotionalceremony tradition in which a superior officer attaches the rank tothe officer’s uniform.

The 296th has been lauded for their performance in support ofOperation Enduring Freedom. From their arrival in Iraq on March 20,2003, to their departure on July 25, 2003, the unit hauled morethan 9 million gallons of fuel over more than a million mileswithout an accident.