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Troops get patriotic send-off

It was an emotional departure Wednesday for the soldiers of ArmyNational Guard’s Detachment 2 of the 155th Infantry Battalion ofthe 1-155th Separate Armored Brigade and their families, friends,and the community.

Approximately 75 members of the units left Brookhaven for athree month post-mobilization training exercise at Camp Shelby inpreparation for deployment to Iraq.

Events Wednesday morning began with a standing-room only crowdat the unit’s armory on Highway 84 Bypass as families, friends,elected officials and area residents gathered for a lastfarewell.

Although the soldiers tried to keep the event light-hearted, thetears were quick to come.

“I’m too stubborn to come back in anything more than one piece,”PFC Michael White quipped to his mother, Deborah Huffman.

“You’d better. I’ve already told you you’ll be in real troubleif you don’t,” she shot back.

PFC Willie Black tried to ease the fears of his family byassuring them he, and the unit, were well trained and fully capableof completing any mission they may receive.

“I’ve been back (with the unit) for a little over a year, and inthat year I can already tell you I wouldn’t want to go anywherewith anyone else,” he said. “This is a good bunch of guys.”

Local officials spoke briefly to the soldiers on behalf of theirconstituents as the soldiers sat among their families andfriends.

Brookhaven Mayor Bob Massengill invoked a speech by WinstonChurchill during a high school graduation following World War II.He read the entirety of the speech: “Never, never, never giveup.”

Massengill said things would likely get tough for the men attimes, but he asked them to “never, never, never give up” andpledged the people here would do the same with their prayers andsupport.

Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith approached the podium teary-eyed and asshe gave a brief history of the unit’s service in other wars whileproviding encouragement, she openly admitted her tears.

“It’s an emotional day for everyone, and I’m not going toapologize for those tears,” she said.

Rep. Dr. Jim Barnett lauded the soldiers on their patriotism,duty and responsibility and assured them the public was behindthem.

“There is certainly a sense of sadness in your hearts today, butthere is also pride – pride in serving your country,” he said.

Rep. Bobby Moak carried similar sentiments. He talked of hisfather working on the oil rigs when he was young. His father workedon the derricks, a more dangerous job, for years to earn an extranickel a day to keep his family happy and fed.

Moak reminded the families of soldiers in the audience that theywere also part of the reason their spouses, fathers and sons weredeploying.

“My family was raised on that extra nickel a day,” Moak said.”He worked on the derricks for us. They’re working on the derricksfor you.”

Following the brief ceremony, soldiers loaded onto theirvehicles for a short parade through the city, which included a passthrough the downtown area and down Brookway Boulevard to I-55.

Residents gathered along the route waving flags and shoutinggoodbyes to the soldiers, who returned the cheers by honking theirhorns.