Rep. Don Young welcomes Alaska Army National Guardsmen back home at Camp Shelby, Mississippi.
Alaska Congressman Don Young joined Senator Lisa Murkowski last week at Camp Shelby, Mississippi where they welcomed back the 586 members of the Alaska Army National Guard’s 3rd Battalion, 297th Infantry. The guardsmen have been successfully serving as security forces in northern Kuwait and southern Iraq since October 2006, guarding camps and convoys heading into Iraq. They are comprised of residents from 80 different communities across Alaska including Anchorage, Fairbanks, Kodiak, Soldotna, Kenai, Nome and many Native villages.
“I don’t know about you, but when I hear the Alaska pride song, it brings tears to my eyes,” said Rep. Young appreciatively, as he addressed the crowd. “I am proud of my state and I am equally as proud of you. In the Congress in which I serve in, you hear a lot of rhetoric these days. There is a lot of talk about supporting the troops. Well, you can’t support the troops unless you respect them. And I humbly respect you because you have done your job as you were charged to do so, and as volunteers. You left your families and you went forth and accomplished what you were taught to do. It brings me great pride to be here today; great pride to welcome you home. I welcome you back to the United States and to the home that we all love. I am proud of the National Guard. You are the fighting Army. You have done your jobs and done them well, and again I salute you. I am proud of you. God bless.”
Following the official ceremony, Rep. Young walked through the crowds, meeting with and thanking the guardsmen for their service to their country. This has been the largest call-up of members of the Alaska National Guard since World War II. All 586 guardsmen who were deployed overseas returned home safely, Rep. Young wrote in a news release.
U.S. Senator Ted Stevens, who attended the battalion’s send-off last October, could not be present for the welcome home event due to his official Senate duties in Washington D.C. However, the Senator praised the battalion in a floor statement that morning in the U.S. Senate, “Mr. President, today I ask the Senate to salute the men and women of the Third Battalion, 297th Infantry Regiment of the Alaska Army National Guard. Within days, the Alaska Army Guard members will start their return journey back to Alaska. The dedication of the Third Battalion reminds us that in our nation’s darkest moments when freedom has been on the line our citizen soldiers have answered the call to serve. Their duties and traditions are deeply rooted in our country’s history. During the Civil War and World War II, it was our citizen soldier who tipped the balance and ensured our victory. Members of the Third Battalion have carried forward this proud tradition. Their dedication to serve reflects the bravery and courage of those who came before them,” spoke Senator Stevens.
In the twin cities plans for a community welcome home celebration to honor local Guardsmen are being made by Kenai Mayor Pat Porter and Soldotna Mayor David Carey. The public event will be held Saturday, November 10th at 11:00am at the National Guard Armory in Kenai. According to Mayor Porter U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski and Governor Sarah Palin have been invited to attend the ceremony and a reception for the soldiers and their families will follow. Meanwhile yellow ribbons are starting to appear throughout he community with a huge yellow ribbon now adorning the giant globe in front of the Challenger Learning Center in Kenai.
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