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2101st has Christmas get-together

Members of the 2101st Transportation Company and their families came together Sunday for a Christmas luncheon at the National Guard Armory in Demopolis.

The event was also the last time the families would come together before the unit is deployed on Jan. 10.

“Every year, we get together around Christmastime and give thanks to our lord and savior, Jesus Christ,” said company commander Capt. Kelvin Perkins. “We also give thanks for our families who have endured the hardships that we have gone through as we come for drill, missing those family days: anniversaries, birthdays and those important baseball games that our little ones play.

“We bring together our community and supporters and invite them to dinner with our family during this special holiday season. This will be our last family get-together before we deploy in early 2010.”

The families had a buffet-style meal served up by soldiers from the 2101st, and Santa Claus even made an appearance to get last-minute Christmas list additions from the children of the soldiers.

There is support for the families of those who will be deployed overseas next month. Karla Thomas is a member of a statewide support group that helps families cope while their loved ones are overseas.

“I work with the Family Readiness Group,” she said. “I help take care of the families, basically, and help ensure that our soldiers can go and do their mission and not have to worry about things at home. If somebody has a problem at home, they can call me at (205) 292-7949, and I can help them find the resources to help them take care of that. They can also e-mail me at karla.a.thomas@us.army.net.”

Thomas also works with the families to prepare them for deployment, including the stress that comes before and after a soldier is sent overseas.

“I also work with National Guard headquarters with their Yellow Ribbon program,” she said. “About 30 days prior to deployment, we do a program for the soldiers and their families and help give them all of the contact information and resources that they need. We deal with everything from education, insurance topics, legal issues — anything to prepare the soldier’s family for that soldier to leave.

“Then, twice during the deployment, the families will come together again at an event. One event is specific to how they are coping with the deployment so far; that’s usually about three months into the deployment. The next one is for preparing them for the reunion, for when their soldier is coming home and what to expect, the transitions that they will be going through as far as insurance. Then, when the soldiers come home, there is a 30-, 60- and 90-day program that we do as part of the Yellow Ribbon program.”

There are also programs where supporters talk with the children of the soldiers about stress management and what their parent might be going through and the reactions the returning soldier might have so the children will have an idea of what to expect.

“Our program has been in place for about two years now,” Thomas said. “It’s a very good program. It is designed to help the soldier and the family as a unit, because we want to be sure that the families understand that they are as much a part of our ‘family’ as that soldier is, and we care about them and want to take care of them.”

There will be a community program honoring the members of the 2101st Transportation Company on Saturday, Jan. 9, at 10 a.m. at Demopolis High School.

The soldiers are scheduled to be deployed on the morning of Jan. 10.