Our View: Thanks and gratitude for soldiers’ safe homecoming
Some 550 families across Alabama are celebrating today after being reunited with loved ones they welcomed home in emotional ceremonies in a half-dozen locations in the central part of the state Monday. Six companies of the 1st Battalion of the 167th Infantry, also called the 4th Alabama, returned home safely after being deployed to Afghanistan where, as one officer put it, they encountered the enemy “more than our fair share” of times.

Some 70 members of Alpha Company from Valley and Anniston National Guard units received welcomes in their cities.

Bravo Company returned to Pelham with more than 100 soldiers.

Charlie Company made it back to Cullman with more than 70 soldiers.

Sylacauga welcomed some 70 soldiers from Delta Company in ceremonies at Legion Stadium.

And 240 members of Talladega’s Echo Company and Oxford’s Foxtrot Company held a combined homecoming at the Speedvision Dome next to Talladega Superspeedway.

In some of the most hostile territory on earth, these men and women from Alabama conducted more than 18,350 missions, transporting 65,200 personnel more than 206,148 miles — enough mileage to circle the earth more than eight times.

There were some from the 167th who volunteered to remain in Afghanistan to assist the troops who went to take their place.

The focus of the celebrations was on showing appreciation not only to the soldiers, but also to their families, friends and other who demonstrated their support for them during the deployment.

We add our thanks as well.

The guard has always played a vital role in our nation’s defense, and traces its history back to colonial days, even before the founding of our nation, when militias stood ready to defend the colonists.

Through the 19th century and the early part of the 20th, the militia, and then the National Guard, made up the bulk of our defense, at least during initial part of the conflicts. Guardsmen served in World War I, World War II, in Korea and Vietnam, they reinforced NATO during the Berlin crisis, and their role has become more critical in recent years.

Overseas deployments have been more frequent since Operation Desert Storm in 1991, and the dual role of the guard also requires soldiers to be available to serve following natural disasters and other emergencies to help protect lives and property at home.

We appreciate the commitment these men and women make to serve Alabama and the United States, their professionalism in their work as they continue their training, and the risks they take on behalf of all of us as they undertake their service.

We join their families in expressing gratitude that they all returned home safely, and we thank them for their service and sacrifices.

© 2013