March 28, 2009
Hundreds of National Guardsmen from North Mississippi''s Alpha Battery are shipping out to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in the coming weeks and many were in Columbus with their families Saturday.
More than 750 people were in the Friendly City to take part in the U.S. Army''s Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program. The program combines a deployment ceremony and several educational seminars designed to help families cope with living with a loved one overseas.
"If a soldier''s wife does not know about what medical benefits are going to be, she will when she leaves here," said Maj. Joe Hartman. Hartman is in charge of putting Yellow Ribbon programs together all across the state.
"The families are about to handle everything from insurance to financial matters to suicide prevention to child care and sibling rivalry," said civilian organizer Nancy Carpenter. "This will help those families cope with the change."
"When the National Guard deploys it''s not the same as a regular army deployment," said Captain Dennis Bittle. "When a National Guardsman deploys ,the full impact is felt on the families and the community."
Specialist Steven Kendrick had been out of the Army for ten years when he signed up with the National Guard in November. He plans to be deployed for at least a year.
"I''m going to Iraq, probably Mosul," he said. "I''m here so my wife Chastity will know what to do when I''m gone."
Private Torish Cannon, father of six, of Aberdeen is heading to Iraq for the first time.
"I''m feeling pretty good, I''m going to go over there and do my job and come back," he said.
His wife isn''t quite as upbeat about the situation.
"I''m scared," she said. "But he has to do what he has to do, and I support him all the way."
Lilly Jefferson, of West Point, is sending her son, Sgt. John Jefferson, to Iraq for the second time.
"It''s a devastating experience, but you have to let them do what they are going to do. He went to college, got all his diplomas, he did everything right, and this is just something he has to do."
Part of the unit will deploy May 1 and the rest June 1.
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