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Army Reserve unit gets homecoming welcome

802nd Ordnance Co. returned from tour in Afghanistan last fall with no casualties

POSTED: March 5, 2011 6:59 p.m.
SCOTT ROGERS /The Times

Vietnam War veteran Willard Shewbert joins others Saturday clapping for the members of the 802nd Ordinance Co. as they enter Lakewood Baptist Church for a welcome home ceremony. The Gainesville-based Army Reserve unit returned from a tour of duty in Afghanistan in November.

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You could say it through a speech or a proclamation. You could say it through song.

However you say it, there's no wrong way to thank a soldier. Sometimes it's as easy as "thanks."

"I simply want to say to you, on behalf of the citizens of Georgia, thank you," Gov. Nathan Deal said Saturday to the U.S. Army Reserve 802nd Ordnance Co. during the unit's welcome home celebration.

The 802nd received a police escort to Lakewood Baptist Church on Thompson Bridge Road in Gainesville. The company filed into the interim worship center where hundreds of friends, family and distinguished guests stood to meet them.

"It is great to have you back in formation," Col. James C. Bagley, commander of the 207th Regional Support Group, said to the company dressed in uniform. "Y'all look great."

The 802nd includes 260 soldiers, half of whom were deployed in Afghanistan from December 2009 to November 2010 as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. Based in Gainesville, the company also includes troops from Fort Gillem in Forest Park and from Aiken, S.C.

The unit's commander, Capt. Todd Bostick, recalled how the company reacted when he received news that they would be deployed.

"I didn't see fear, I didn't see concern. I saw raw steel," he said.

Though the troops were from three locations, Bostick said he quickly saw them unite. During their year in Afghanistan, the troops packaged, shipped and distributed 76,000 tons of ammunition worth more than a billion dollars.

"The 802nd Ordnance Company set the standard - and of them, you ought to be proud," Bostick said, and the worship center erupted with applause.

But that wasn't the 802nd's biggest accomplishment.

"Most importantly, they brought everyone home," said Col. James C. Bagley, commander of the 207th Regional Support Group.

Renee Wright's son was deployed in Afghanistan. She and her husband, her son's grandparents and friends attended the ceremony.

"It was just a wonderful tribute to them," the Newnan resident said. "The community up here has been very supportive. It was just a great way to welcome them back."

Spc. Ian Wright was grateful for the recognition and support.
"It's nice to know the community's got our back," he said.

Lt. Col. Jeffrey Sims encouraged the troops to look out for each other and, though they were no longer in a war zone, to remember their "battle buddy."

"The transition home isn't always easy," Sims said. "I want you to stay situationally aware of your battle buddies."

The program was organized and presented by Operation Patriot's Call, a military support group that assists families of soldiers.

"Never, ever will we let a soldier or his family go in need," Ron Kellner of Operation Patriot's Call said.
A commemorative challenge coin featuring the 802nd's insignia on one side and a map of Afghanistan overlaid with the American flag on the other will be given to the soldiers deployed.

Minister and Christian musician Joey Nicholson performed a song he composed titled, "I Say Thank You," in which he expressed his gratitude to the company for their service.
Gainesville Mayor Ruth Bruner presented a proclamation to the Bostick in honor of the 802nd.

"I, Ruth H. Bruner, do hereby proclaim the fifth day of March 2011, to be 802nd Ordnance Day," Bruner said.

For Bostick, the welcome-home ceremony was about the 802nd completing their objectives and bringing everyone home.

"It means a sigh of relief; it means victory over a job well done," he said.



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