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Help us send the 2101st off right

This morning at 10 a.m. a departure ceremony for Alabama Army National Guard’s 2101st Transportation Company will be held at Demopolis High School.

This is the company’s second deployment in the current war, having provided transportation support for Operation Iraqi Freedom during 2004-05.

Lee Belcher, commander of the Marengo County DAV Chapter 31, is expecting upwards of 200 soldiers and family members and is urging the public to turnout in support of these local men and women.

The Unit is comprised of men and women from detachments in Demopolis, Aliceville and Butler and these brave souls have been called to active duty in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

They are expected to be gone for approximately one-year.

When these soldiers head toward Fort Dix, N.J. Sunday, they will undergo about a month of specific training, unique to their mission and their objective.

The unit has been training for its mission for months, undergoing extensive training both at home station and at Camp Shelby, Miss. Some unit members – part of Detachment 1 out of Aliceville – were able to put that training to use earlier this year.

In July, as they traveled home from training at Camp Shelby, they witnessed a church bus from Louisiana blow a tire and overturn directly in front of the unit bus. The unit bus stopped and 47 members of the 2101st assisted accident victims. Many involved believe their actions saved lives.

Gov. Bob Riley later recognized these soldiers in an awards ceremony at the Capitol.

After four weeks of new training, which will begin next week, they will then depart for the Middle East.

I can only imagine being away from home for a full year, much less halfway around the planet in hostile engagement.

That these men and women willingly sacrifice the time we take for granted in defense of their country is both vailiant and honorable.

I hope you will join me tomorrow at the high school as we wish these men and women well on what I hope is a speedy and safe trip back home nearly 12 months from now.

Jason Cannon is publisher of the Demopolis Times.