National Guard homecoming celebrations Monday
by Emily Adams
TALLADEGA COUNTY — After a yearlong deployment, most of which was spent in Afghanistan, the Alabama Army National Guard’s 1/167th Infantry Battalion is back on American soil.

The unit of about 600 soldiers was sent off with well wishes last June, and now area municipalities are celebrating its return with homecoming ceremonies Monday.

Sylacauga will host a celebration Monday at 1 p.m. at Legion Stadium, where many of the 100 soldiers from Company D will be reunited with their families for the first time.

Another event will take place Monday at 2 p.m. at Talladega Superspeedway, honoring about 240 troops from Battalion Headquarters, Headquarters Company and Company E in Talladega, as well as Oxford’s F Company.

The unit arrived in the United States on May 8 and has been at Camp Shelby, Miss., since then. They will leave Mississippi Monday morning and Company D should be in Sylacauga by 1 p.m., where the city is pulling out all the stops to welcome soldiers home, Mayor Doug Murphree said.

Their buses will be met with American flags along U.S. 280 and a police escort through town. Yellow ribbons will be placed down Fort Williams Street and Broadway Avenue, as well as a platform fire truck wielding a large American flag.

“We just want to roll out the red carpet and show them how proud we are for them for what they’ve done for us,” Murphree said. “We want everyone who can and will to be at the stadium and show support for them.”

At the stadium, there will be patriotic music performed by the Sylacauga High School band, featured speakers and a welcome from Murphree. The program will last about 30 minutes.

Company D Family Readiness Group chairwoman Rebecca Milam said many of the soldiers were able to see their families for the first time over Mother’s Day weekend, but for some, it will be their first chance to reunite. Milam said the soldiers and their families appreciate what the city is doing to show support.

“They are going all out for them, and it is just going to be a great homecoming,” she said.

In Talladega, soldiers will also be escorted by police to the speedway. There will be several special guest speakers at the ceremony, including a prominent politician.

While in Afghanistan, the 1/167th completed 12,000 missions and safely transported nearly 43,000 personnel across more than 142,648 treacherous miles, according to a press release. The 1/167th has played a role in every major American war since the Civil War. The Alabama National Guard has called more than 18,000 personnel to active duty since 9/11 and remains a top contributor among the nation’s National Guard.

© 2013