Big Welcome Awaits Guardsmen
Teresa McLean's granddaughter, Taylor, was born five weeks after her father, Jeremy, was deployed to Iraq.
She is now 7 months old, and all she knows of her dad has come to her through technology.
"She does recognize him on the computer," McLean says. "We are gonna have to put a frame around his face when he comes home so he looks like a computer."
McLean and all the family members of the National Guardsmen in Company C 252nd Combined Arms Battalion are anxiously awaiting the return of their loved ones.
They are also planning a welcome-home party to be remembered for a long time.
Families are asking the community to support the unit by coming to the National Guard Armory on Morganton Road in Southern Pines from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday and Tuesday to sign a banner welcoming home the soldiers. About 50 signatures already adorn the community banner now. Those who wish to sign the banner but are unable to attend the event on Monday or Tuesday can call the Armory at (910) 692-8747 to arrange a time to sign it.
"We'd love to have more support," McLean said.
Eighty-seven soliders from several states, including North Carolina, are expected home sometime in January. There is no official return date.
"We may get two days' notice, we may get eight hours' notice," said Amanda Chipps, who has a husband and a cousin serving in the unit.
This is the second tour of duty for many of the members of the National Guard unit. Family members wanted to do something to honor their return, so they have four banners and a flag to present the unit when it returns.
One banner is signed by family and friends, another by the community and one just by family. The fourth one features handprints from 19 children of the soliders. Several of those children were born while their fathers were serving in Iraq.
The flag is signed by family members. The flag will be kept at the armory.
For Chipps, a self-proclaimed "Army brat," being away from her husband, Jamie, is tough, especially during the holidays.
"The rare phone calls home mean so much more, and the short talks on the computer I cherish. I am proud to be an Army wife and know that tomorrow is not guaranteed, so yes, I hold all the letters, calls and e-mails very close to my heart."
Chipps and the other family members are anxious for their loved ones to return.
"We are very excited," she said, "and we are all proud family members."
Contact Tom Embrey at (910) 693-2484 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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