The Covington-based National Guard troops will be officially welcomed home June 6, beginning with a parade around the square at 1:15 p.m.
Most of the 131 members of Bravo Company will march from the Covington Armory to the square, followed by an event in front of the Historic Courthouse, said Josephine Kelly, director of Main Street Covington.
Kelly said she and the National Guard are still working on the event details, but all elected officials and some military dignitaries will be invited to the homecoming celebration. There will be an invocation, followed by speeches from the military and representatives from the branches of government. Parking will be available on the street around the square; the area for the ceremony will be marked out, Kelly said. A local ROTC and high school band may also perform.
The Church of the Good Shepherd will host a private lunch for the troops and their families on Sunday at the armory, but it is asking local residents and organizations for help. The church needs barbecue, hamburger buns, slaw, bags of potato chips and assorted desserts. For more information about how to help contact is Al Fernety at (404) 509-3183 with Good Shepherd’s Military Ministry.
In addition, the National Guard is asking organizations to lend 350 chairs and enough tables and white tablecloths to accommodate that many people at the lunch. Local National Guard officials will pick up the tables and/or chairs on June 3 or June 4 from each individual organization and deliver them back on the afternoon of the 6, Kelly said. Contact Main Street at (770) 385-2077 if you have tables available.
On June 5, the troops and their immediate families will also have a private lunch and award ceremony at the Covington Armory. Sgt. Brian Cagle said many of the troops would be receiving awards, including some bronze stars. According to The Institute of Heraldry, the bronze star is the ninth highest military award and may be awarded for acts of heroism or meritorious service.
The American Legion, the nation’s largest veteran’s organization, will provide lunch on June 5.
“This is an opportunity to reach out to active service men. We fed them lunch before we sent off to Afghanistan, and now we want to feed them and their families when they get here and welcome them back,” said Bobby Hamby, a local legion member. He said the group is planning to host between 300 to 400 people.
“We just appreciate the support of the community while we were deployed. On the parade day we’re looking forward to getting the opportunities to say thank you,” Cagle said.
Major John Alderman said previously that two Bravo Company soldiers were injured while in Afghanistan. Only a handful of the 131 soldiers are actually from Newton County, but Major John Alderman said about 40 percent of the unit is from Newton and its surrounding counties.
During their year in Afghanistan, the soldiers helped train Afghan National Security Forces in the Paktika province in southeast Afghanistan. They partnered with, lived and fought with the Afghan National Army, police and border police. Many of the locations they occupied were occupied only by Special Forces or never at all, according to a press release.