Thousands welcome National Guard's 186th home

{gallery}/04_27_10/troops{/gallery} It seemed as though all of southern Oregon celebrated last Saturday afternoon as some 320 of the 600 troops sent to Iraq last July returned home. They were part of the 2,800 from the National Guard’s 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team. Thousands lined the path from the Armory to Spiegelberg Stadium at South Medford High School waving large American flags.

Weather-wise it was a perfect day in the Rogue Valley. The only thing not quite perfect about the day was that not all the National Guard troops arrived. About half of them were delayed when air traffic came to a halt due to the recent volcanic activity in Iceland. Those troops are now at Fort Lewis and are expected in the Rogue Valley probably at the end of this week. And there will be another celebration.

 

The 1st Battalion of the 186th Infantry arrived by bus not by air as originally planned. Their first stop was the Medford Armory where they were greeted by so many loved ones. From there they marched in formation to the stadium and the waiting crowd and dignitaries.

 

Governor Ted Kulongoski honored the troops and received the American Flag he had given them when they left Oregon. The flag flew over their headquarters in Iraq

Other dignitaries included U.S. Senator Ron Wyden and U.S. Representative Greg Walden, the mayor of Ashland and of Medford and  Major General Fred Rees, state adjutant general, among others.

After some 2.1 million miles escorting 78,000 tons of supplies and engaging insurgent 43 times, this group of men and women did not lose a soldier. However, there were two National Guard soldiers from the Portland area killed in action and they were remembered as the Southern Oregon Scottish Bagpipe Band played “Amazing Grace.”

The support shown last Saturday showed it was not only families concerned and caring about those serving in the 186th, it was folks from far and near. The Rogue Valley showed “they are proud to be American.”

By Nancy Leonard
Of the Independent

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