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Guard sendoff event set for Sat.

Brookhaven’s Company E, 106th Brigade Support Battalion is justtwo weeks from its departure to Camp Shelby for pre-deploymenttraining, but the guardsmen aren’t leaving town without aparty.

“Night at the Fair,” an afternoon- and evening-long sendoffevent organized by the company’s Family Readiness Group, will beheld this Saturday, beginning at 3:15 p.m., at the BrookhavenExchange Club Park. The family-friendly event is designed to letthe general public meet and greet its soldiers and show themsupport while enjoying a half day’s worth of activities,entertainment and food.

“For the first deployment (in 2004 and 2005), we really didn’thave much of a community sendoff,” said Company E FRG SecretaryJana Calcote. “This time we wanted the community to get a chance tosee the guys and girls before they go.”

Calcote said a strong showing of community support at the eventwould have an impact on the unit’s morale as it prepares fordeployment. “Night at the Fair” will be attended not only byCompany E’s 130 soldiers, she said, but by guardsmen from otherunits comprising the 155th Brigade Combat Team. All the soldiersare about to leave everything they know behind for one year, shesaid.

“When the guys go, it’s important for them not only to know thatwhat they’re doing has meaning, but that people respect them andappreciate what they’re doing,” Calcote said. “It’s very importantfor their morale to come and give them that extra boost before theygo – let them know we stand behind them and, when they get back,we’ll be waiting with open arms.”

The event will open with an Easter egg hunt – people shouldbring their own baskets – at 3:15 p.m., followed by a contemporaryChristian band. At 4:30 p.m., a team from Northview Baptist Churchwill perform music, a skit and a puppet show.

Local leaders and National Guard commanders will speak at 5 p.m.At 5:30 p.m., the park’s rides will open and run until 8:30 p.m.,when the event ends. A second band composed of present and formerguardsmen will perform after 5 p.m.

Just Kiddin’ of Brookhaven will be on hand throughout the eventwith several children’s activities, and Mr. Charley’s Fun Jumpswill have an inflatable play pen set up at the park. Carriage rideswill be available for $1, as will various concessions and candy.Portions of the proceeds from every sale at the event will go tothe FRG for future activities.

The FRG is selling armbands that will allow the weareradmittance to any of the rides in the Exchange Club Park for $10.Tickets for the armbands are available at Bob’s Sandwich Shop, FarmBureau, Martha’s Paperback Book Exchange and Wand Seed Store. Thearmbands will be available at the fair, but for $15.

Calcote said the public should come to “Night at the Fair” readyto have a good time with the community’s soldiers.

“This will give you a chance to see a real American hero,” shesaid. “This is a great time for us to come together as a community.Brookhaven is such a unique community because it’s so small andeveryone is together. It feels like we’re all family. In a lot ofways, we are.”

Company E will depart for Camp Shelby for pre-deploymenttraining on April 6, and will deploy to north-central Iraq in lateJune or early July. The unit will be assigned to security duty,such as escorting supply convoys traveling from point to point inIraq. It is expected to return home in the spring of 2010.

The deployment is the company’s second in the six-year-old IraqWar. It served in Iskandariyah, near Baghdad, in 2004-2005. Thisyear, around 70 percent of the company will be participating intheir first deployment.