Troop return was an honor to witness

By Brian Walker - The Kentucky Standard

Being assigned to work on a national holiday isn’t such a bad thing. This company allows for extra financial compensation, and generally, the story handed out is interesting. So when I learned Monday would be the return of the troops from Bardstown-based C Battery, 2nd 138th Army National Guard Unit, I wasn’t a bit upset to work on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. I told my wife, Donna, about the assignment, and since she was off work, asked her to come along with me to the ceremony.

We got up Monday morning, dressed the kids, dropped them off at daycare and headed to Louisville. Once we arrived at the gates of the Kentucky Air National Guard Base, home of the “Thoroughbred Express,” we were greeted by a courteous group of airmen. After exchanging our driver’s licenses for base passes, we parked and were escorted into an airplane hangar to await the arrival of the soldiers.

Inside were moms, dads, children, grandparents and every other configuration of family members you can imagine. Many held signs, balloons or small gifts for their loved ones. Children cried a lot. Donna said that likely, the reasons for the disruption of nap time to be in a huge, well-lit room full of people were lost on the wee ones. Time seemed to fly by, and the scheduled arrival of the plane approached. Announcements about the distance the plane was from the Louisville airport and how soon it would touch down were met with whoops and cheers.

Gov. Steve Beshear arrived with several U.S. Army brass and greeted the families. He spoke to children and hugged those who requested one from him. Beshear posed for innumerable photos, all the while smiling and saying thank you to those who worried and fretted since October 2006 when their loved ones were called away to war. A calm fell over the crowd. An announcement was made the plane was less than 10 minutes away. The massive doors of the hangar were opened and the families lined the edge of the tarmac. In the distance, a shiny metal object began to become clearer. The red markings on the bright fuselage revealed it to be from the Northwest Airlines fleet.

Shouts of “That’s the one” and “It’s them” gave way to thunderous applause. Tears began to flow. The plane slowly rolled up near the families. A ladder truck pulled up to allow the soldiers to depart. The plane’s exit door opened. Moments later, a camouflage-covered arm appeared and waved to the crowd. Beshear and various military officials made their way to the bottom of the stairs and shook hands with each member of “Charlie Battery” as they touched the ground in Kentucky for the first time since many were on leave last year. Toward their waiting friends and family they marched, each breaking formation when being spotted or locating their greeters. Tears flowed, children were scooped up into arms hungry to hold them tight. Kisses, hugs and handshakes were given and received.

After a time allowing the soldiers to revel in their safe return, a short ceremony took place and the troops were sent their separate ways. They will meet again for drill in a few months, but the time they spent in the line of fire in Iraq has made them members of an even larger family.

For me, the issue at hand Monday and every day we are at war overseas isn’t do I agree or not. It’s my respect, admiration, trust and genuine pride in those who serve in the military. Lay aside your politics. Forget your agenda. Thank a soldier.

To all those in “Charlie Battery,” thank you. To the family of those who have served and continue to do so, thank you for your sacrifice as well.

This story, written by Brian Walker, was provided to One Knox courtesy of The Kentucky Standard. Read more stories from The Kentucky Standard at www.kystandard.com.