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Guard unit celebrates holiday, recognizes accomplishments

Around 200 people gathered at the Brookhaven National Guard poston Saturday night to celebrate Christmas with Company E, 106thBrigade Support Battalion.

Prayers were said for the 129 soldiers in attendance before thefood line wrapped around the building.

In his prayer, the Rev. Talmadge Smith, director of missions forthe Lincoln County Baptist Association, made sure to give thanksthat the unit was home for the holidays and not in the Iraqi townof Iskandariyah, 22 miles south of Baghdad, where it was stationedfor one year in 2005.

JoAnn Skipper, chairwoman of the company’s Family ReadinessGroup and wife of 22-year veteran Staff Sgt. Daron Skipper,organized the roughly three-hour event.

“I basically got everything set up,” she said. “Decorations,food preparation, newsletters … and gifts for the kids.”

Gifts for the kids, two large boxes of toys donated by thecompany to Brookhaven Area Toys for Tots, were one of the ways theguardsmen gave thanks of their own. Cable One’s Cynthia Price andToys for Tots co-chairman Kevin Kimble were on hand to receive thedonation.

The company also recognized Brookhaven and Lincoln County forsupporting the guard by presenting plaques to Alderman at large LesBumgarner and District Two Supervisor Bobby J. Watts.

Company commander Capt. John Boler used the event to honorseveral of his men. He presided over several small ceremonies ofrecognition, the first of which was the awarding of the MississippiMagnolia Cross to three retiring guardsmen who had a combined 77years of service.

Staff Sgt. Freddie Perry, Staff Sgt. Herbert Williams and Sgt.Vernell Sanders Jr., with 26, 30 and 21 years of service,respectively, hung up their helmets. Boler explained why veteranssuch as the thrree were important to the continuity of theservice.

“The best thing a young, fresh soldier can do is to get aroundthese rough, old experienced veterans,” he said.

Boler also presented the Mississippi Magnolia Necklace, an honorgiven to the wives of retiring guardsmen, to Sharon Williams andJoyce Sanders.

With assistance from Deck Sgt. Deryk Dahmer and Staff Sgt.Lucius Washington, Boler recognized more guardsmen for outstandingservice and accomplishments.

Specialist Dexter Miller was promoted to Sergeant E-5.

Specialist Johnny F. West was recognized for outstanding serviceduring Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Sergeants Charles Ballance andMarcus Hubbard were honored for exceptional execution of dutyduring the unit’s last training exercise.

Ballance would join Specialist E-4 Timothy Piernas to berecognized for scoring in the top 3 percent of the class duringtraining.

To wrap up the awards, four soldiers were presented with whatStaff Sgt. Jeff Lott called the “much-coveted” FoundationAward.

“This award is for the non-commissioned officers,” Lott said.”It doesn’t go to the commanders, it doesn’t go to the officers, itgoes to the men. This is our award.”

The Foundation Award, presented for service that is “far aboveand beyond” a soldier’s duty, was awarded to Specialist MichaelArrington, Specialist Ian Dixon, Private First Class Isaac Percerand Sergeant E-5 Dexter Miller.