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Armory packed for unit’s return

Last night, members of Linden’s 200th Engineer Battalion slept in their homes, in their beds for the first time in 15 months.

After more than a year of defending the country during Operation Iraqi Freedom, the troops arrived at Camp Shelby in Mississippi last Sunday and had their official homecoming celebration Monday, Jan. 16 at the Fort Hill McManus Boggs Armory.

“You’ve done a great job and welcome home,” Alabama governor Bob Riley said to the soldiers. “It’s good to have you back in Alabama.”

Riley said he attempts to attend as many homecomings as his schedule permits in order to show his appreciation for the men and women who fight for American freedom.

“It’s easy for us to forget the freedoms we have were paid for by the sacrifices of these men and women,” Riley said.

“I admire the courage, determination and dedication of these men and women,” Commander Randy Martin said. “It’s simply amazing to me.”

Lt. Governor and 200th commander James “Eddie” Porter said he couldn’t say enough good things about his troop. In his words, they are some of the finest soldiers he’s ever been associated with.

Adjutant general of the Alabama National Guard Major General Craig Bowen told Linden troops, “the call came, you answered the call and accomplished the mission.”

Bowen said the National Guard fights to defend freedom and to help other countries get and keep their freedom.

“As far as I’m concerned, if we have to fight, and no one wants to, I’d much rather we do it over there than here,” Riley said. “And to those who want us to pull back, we can’t leave now. There’re too many people who have done too much to turn around and leave.”

Major General Gary Quick, commander of the 62nd Troop, said the guards had three missions while they were overseas: mobility, counter mobility and survival.

“They were responsible for traveling 4,700 miles by themselves and they did it without incident,” Quick said of the battalion.

Of the 40 troops belonging to the battalion deployed to Iraq, all of them returned to American soil.

“That’s what we prayed for everyday,” Riley said. “We send them all over there together and we want to bring them all back together.”

“We are living proof that prayer does work,” Porter told the families. “I can’t repay you for the comfort you gave the soldiers. When they know everything is going well at home, they can focus on doing what needs to be done.”

Now that the soldiers have returned home, Bowen said their main mission is to “enjoy the time off, relax, go home, kick back and relax some more.”

“They’ve certainly earned it,” he said.

“I am so grateful for these men and women. They are a wonderful team,” Porter said. “This wasn’t just an Eddie Porter show. They are great people and they are great support.”

On Jan. 1, 2005, Porter wrote on the battalion’s web journal the moral of the soldiers was “extremely high” and that he had never seen a “more motivated group of soldiers.

“They have adopted their own slogan for the mission: ‘Git er done,'” he wrote. “And this is evidence of their strong conviction to the mission.”

Riley said a sign in the armory best described the 200th’s accomplishment as he read it aloud, “Bama’s best got er done.”