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Support group plans picnic, games to lift spirits of soldiers’ loved ones

POSTED: May 30, 2009 12:12 a.m.

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With husbands and fathers having just left for military deployment overseas, a group supporting families here at home are hoping to lift spirits with some food, fun and games.

Operation Patriot’s Call and Charlie Company’s family support group are organizing an outing set for 1-5 p.m. June 6 at River Community Church off Ga. 60 in Murrayville, said Dave Dellinger of Patriot’s Call.

In addition to enjoying picnic foods, families will be tossing horseshoes, playing volleyball and running around in the church’s gym.

"We’re going to have a lot of fun that day," he said.

The Gainesville-based Charlie Company, part of the 1st Battalion, 121st Infantry Regiment of the Georgia Army National Guard’s 48th Brigade, has left for Afghanistan, where it will be deployed for about a year.

In its second deployment to the Middle East, the group left Gainesville on March 30 amid much public fanfare and headed first for training at Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center in Mississippi.

Loved ones were able to enjoy a five-day leave with the soldiers before deployment. Their last day together was last Saturday.

Dellinger said the soldiers landed Thursday in the Afghanistan region.

Sgt. Casey Taylor, a Charlie Company member who is remaining behind to help with families, couldn’t be reached for comment.

Charlie Company has held an annual picnic for families, and Dellinger said supporters of the group didn’t want to let that fade this year because the troops are serving overseas.

"We wanted to do something to get their minds off (them leaving)," he said.

Harry Gainer, chaplain for the Civil Air Patrol’s Georgia Wing, was able to garner support for the event from his church, which he and his wife, Debbie, attend.

"Our church is very patriotic," he said, adding that it also the room to accommodate a large group.

Gainer and his wife gave a rousing rendition of "God Bless the USA" during a public send-off of Charlie Company in late-March. Audience members stood and waved U.S. flags during the song.

He said he believed Americans need to rally around not only soldiers leaving for deployment but their loved ones left behind.

A Vietnam War veteran, he recalled a different climate when he returned from conflict.

"When I came back, they told us to take off our uniform before we got to the airport, that there will be people there who do not like you," Gainer said.

Dellinger said he expects more future events to be planned for families, including a Christmas party complete with gifts for the children and a Halloween party.

Last year’s Christmas party, which took place at Riverside Military Academy in Gainesville, featured an appearance by Santa Claus.



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