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Soldiers praised in parade

MONTICELLO – Several hundred people gathered along Broad Streetin downtown Monticello on Saturday to witness a parade honoring themen and women of the hometown National Guard unit deploying toIraq.

The 49 soldiers of the 106th Support Battalion HeadquartersCompany were the highlight of the parade and marched last.

Other entries included local government agencies, such as thepolice and fire departments, county volunteer fire departments andrepresentatives from Brookhaven, Hazlehurst, Magee and Hattiesburg,who have soldiers in the unit. The theme was “Honoring OurOwn.”

Willie Pearl Jones, whose husband retired from the 106th afterDesert Storm, said she was there beside her husband to show shecontinued to support them.

“It was nice,” she said. “I enjoyed seeing our troops who areabout to leave.”

She was disappointed in the public’s response, however, sayingshe believed more people would be there to wish the soldierswell.

“It wasn’t as much as I thought it would be,” she said. “I don’tguess enough fuss was made over it.”

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Bobby Wayne Tanksley of Wesson disagreedand said it was all a soldier could ask for.

“It was wonderful to have the support of the community,” hesaid. “It was a very good turn out, and it made us proud of ourcommunities.”

Cindy Bourn of Arm, a member of the unit’s family support group,was also proud of the turn out and lamented that she didn’t get tosee as much of the parade as she would have liked because she wasmanning a sales booth. The booth sold T-shirts, car magnets, pinsand other items to raise money for the family support group to helpthose families who may have undergo hardships caused by thedeployment.

The soldiers are departing for training exercises at Camp Shelbyon Tuesday to prepare for deployment to Iraq. The deployment ispart of the mobilization of more than 3,500 soldiers of the155thSeparate Armored Brigade, which also includes units in Brookhaven,McComb, Crystal Springs, Prentiss and Tylertown.

The 155th SAB, headquartered in Tupelo, is comprised of units in49 locations throughout the state. Component units will bemobilizing to Camp Shelby throughout the month of August.

The soldiers will spend three months at Camp Shelby forin-processing and post-mobilization training before deploying toFort Irwin, Calif., for a three-week long mission rehearsalexercise, according to Maj. Danny Blanton of the National Guard’s102nd Public Affairs Office in Jackson.

The brigade was called up as part of a presidential partialmobilization of reserve forces to support operations in Iraq. Underpartial mobilization orders, reservists can be activated for 24months, but that period can be extended or shortened depending onthe needs of the Army, Blanton said.