Fort Deposit welcomes home 781st

Published 3:55 pm Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Hugs and tears were shared between returning soldiers and their families.

By Fred Guarino
The Lowndes Signal

With the Calhoun High School marching band leading the way and a crowd of cheering supporters and family members to welcome them back to Fort Deposit, the Alabama Army National Guard 781st Transportation Company came home from nine months of active duty in Afghanistan on Friday.

In February of 2012, the 781st deployed 120 Alabama National Guardsmen in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

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The unit has been deployed to foreign fields of battle three times in the last 20 years, including Operation Desert Storm, Brigadier General Allen Harrell said.

Harrell, who serves as director of the joint staff of the Alabama Army National Guard, said the 781st “wound up doing a security mission,” which he called “one of the most dangerous.” And, he said, they did “a tremendous job.”

Harrell said he received a note from a brigade commander in Afghanistan “telling us what a wonderful job these people were doing.” He also said the company was known as the “go-to company.”

According to Harrell, the company did more than 85 combat logistical patrols to more than 20 forward operating bases in two different areas, had six Bronze Star recipients and received the Meritorious Unit Award.

He called that an “outstanding record of service.”

Harrell said the Fort Deposit community has also rallied to the call.

“It’s a great thing for the city of Fort Deposit and surrounding community, what you have done. You are all true Americans. And in addition to these heroes up here on the stage, I’m telling you family and friends, you are heroes too,” he said.

First Lieutenant Keaton Price serves as commander of the 781st. He dismissed the unit to waiting family and friends.

“I can’ tell you how proud I am of these men and women standing here before you,” he said. “They’ve gone above and beyond.”

Fort Deposit Mayor Fletcher Fountain said he was elated to see the 781st return home.

“To God be the glory,” he said. “We’re so grateful to see all of you back,” and on behalf of the town of Fort Deposit, the five member council and the 1,356 citizens, “Welcome home,” he said.

First grade teacher Lindsey Croley of Fort Deposit Elementary brought a group of students the cheer the returning troops in.

“We brought some signs, and we’re going to cheer them back home,” she said.

Leigh Barr of Troy was on hand to welcome her husband Adam Barr home.

“We’re just excited to get our family back together and be complete again,” she said.

She and her husband have three children.

“It feels good, just to know that God took care of us… We were in some dangerous places,” Adam Barr said. “We were able to serve our country, and I’m proud of the guys, proud of everything we accomplished, and it’s good to be home.”

Tierra Brundidge of Red Level was on hand to welcome her brother home.

“I’m extremely happy,” she said.

Courtney Hanks of the Millbrook area was there to welcome home her husband, Staff Sergeant Dustin Hanks, with their 6-year-old son, Landon Hanks.

“It’s an amazing feeling,” she said of the homecoming. “You just can’t imagine being separated that long. And we’re just happy to see them home and safe and we’re very proud of the job that they did while they were over there.”

Landon Hanks was happy too. “It’s a good feeling to see all of them come home and to make every grown up feel good,” he said.

Anita Jones of Enterprise came out to welcome back her son Adam Jones home.

“Oh I’m so proud and excited for him,” she said. “It’s been a long nine months and actually longer than that with the training beforehand. So, we’re just really proud that they’re home and safe. And we’re proud of what they did over there.”

Tina Little of Grace-Garland, wife of Staff Sergeant Sidney Little, who had to come home early due to a death in the family, was also there to welcome the troops home.

She serves as the Family Readiness Chairperson for the unit.

She said she wished the crowd went all the way to the Interstate but understood that during the week it was hard for people to get off from work.

Specialist Kevin Mills of Atlanta, Ga. was among those that came home to Fort Deposit.

“I’m just so happy to be back. It’s been a long time. I’ve missed my family like crazy. It was all worth it now that I’m finally here and back and getting to see them and hold them. I’m just glad I made it back and was able to do something right over there. And it’s all worth it now,” he said.

Specialist William Waldrep of Dadeville said he missed his family and was glad to be home to see his two children.

“Oh man, it’s amazing. I’ve missed them so much… glad to be home, glad to see them,” he said.