Local troops rreturn home to partriotic hero’s welcome
By Bob Baysinger
April 27, 2004
|Missouri Secretary of State Matt Blunt, who attends Second Baptist Church , Springfield , was among the dignitaries who welcomed home the 235th. Pathway photo by Bob Baysinger|
JEFFERSON CITY – Missouri National Guardsmen, including hundreds of Missouri Southern Baptists serving in Iraq, have started to trickle home.
One of the first contingents to arrive home was the 235th Engineer Battalion, which spent more than one year in Tikrit housed in one of Sadaam Hussein’s marble palaces. The Missourians were given a hero’s welcome on the Missouri Capitol’s south lawn April 8.
More than 4,000 Missouri National Guardsmen remain on active duty in the Middle East as the war on terrorism continues.
The homecoming featured a standing ovation for the 235th soldiers as they marched single file into a roped-off area in front of the speaker’s stand.
Matt Blunt, Missouri’s Secretary of State who attends Second Baptist Church, Springfield, told the support-the-troops rally that “during war it is vital that we as a nation remain mindful of the sacrifices, including the ultimate sacrifice, that are being made by our men and women in uniform each and every day in places like Iraq, Afghanistan and on missions against terror across the globe.”
Also giving a welcome to the National Guard troops were Missouri’s First Lady, Lori Holden, U.S. Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Jefferson City, and State Rep. Jack Jackson, R-Ellisville, a deacon at First Baptist Church, Ellisville, and a veteran of the Vietnam War.
State Rep. Jack Jackson, R-Wildwood, a deacon at First Baptist Church , Ellisville, also greeted the troops upon their safe return to Jefferson City. Pathway photo by Bob Baysinger
|State Rep. Jack Jackson, R-Wildwood, a deacon at First Baptist Church , Ellisville, also greeted the troops upon their safe return to Jefferson City. Pathway photo by Bob Baysinger|
Tears were obvious during a tribute to 21 Missourians who have lost their lives during Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Children carrying helium-filled balloons formed a line on the Capitol steps facing the homecoming soldiers. Periodically during the playing of taps, the balloons were released floating heavenward.
“For those still on active duty, including the more than 4,000 Missouri Guard and Reserve members, we offer you and your families our thanks and promise you our prayers for your success and safe return,” Blunt said.
The secretary of state, who is a member of the U.S. Naval Reserves, said the success of the Missouri Guard troops and other American fighters should serve as a warning to all who despise the freedom and liberty that American citizens enjoy.
“Every enemy knows that the United States of America will not submit to cowardly acts of violence and that Americans will not rest until they have brought to justice those responsible for atrocities committed on our soil,” Blunt said, referring to the 9-11 attack in New York City .
Because of American sacrifices in Iraq and Afghanistan, Blunt said more than 4 million Afghan children are now attending school. Prior to the liberation of Afghanistan, only about 32 percent of school age children were enrolled in school and 97 percent of the country’s girls did not attend school at all.
“Today in Iraq, a new economy is being built on the principles of the free market,” Blunt said.
“Goods and services once forbidden by Saddam Hussein are now widely available throughout the county. Iraq has joined the information age. Its theaters and symphonies are now open and its artists can practice their craft without fear of retribution from a totalitarian regime.”
Blunt said the Guard men and women – still dressed in their desert-camouflaged uniforms – deserved the gratitude and admiration of this and future generations.
“We must continue to keep them in our prayers for there is a power in prayer,” Blunt said, “that transcends all other human activities.”