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Group plans tribute for National Guard unit headed abroad
Event will be held Thursday
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Staff Sgt. Casey F. Taylor looks through a box of Operation Patriot’s Call T-shirts to be given away at the community wide send-off Thursday for Charlie Company before it deploys to Afghanistan. Several guest speakers and performers will be part of the event planned for 3-5 p.m. Thursday at the Gainesville Civic Center.

Farewell ceremony

Details about the send-off for the Georgia Army National Guard’s Charlie Company

When: 3-5 p.m. Thursday

Where: Gainesville Civic Center, Green Street

Admission: Free to public

A two-hour celebration filled with patriotic tributes is planned as a send-off Thursday for Charlie Company, a Gainesville-based Army National Guard unit headed to Afghanistan.

Operation Patriot’s Call, a group dedicated to helping families of soldiers, has organized the event, which is open to the public and set for 3-5 p.m. Thursday at the Gainesville Civic Center on Green Street.

"We want to tell the guys that are leaving that we’re behind them," said Dave Dellinger, a Patriot’s Call member and vice president of the Vietnam Veterans of America. "But the main thing is to tell the families that ... we’ve got a group here that’s going to help (them)."

Charlie Company, which is part of the 1st Battalion, 121st Infantry Regiment, of the Georgia Army National Guard’s 48th Brigade, has been taking part in required training at Fort Polk, La., home of the Joint Readiness Training Center, and Fort Benning near Columbus before going overseas.

They will complete training at Camp Shelby, Miss., before deployment to Afghanistan.

Staff Sgt. Casey Taylor said the company won’t know exactly when it will leave until the training is finished, or in about two months. Deployment will last 10 months or so, he added.

Their overseas destination also won’t be known until later, Taylor said.

"It’s all depending on the needs of the active-duty Army in that area," he said.

Thursday’s program features music by the Chestatee High School symphonic band; a presentation of colors and retirement of the colors by the Hall County Sheriff’s Office; and remarks by Gainesville Mayor Myrtle Figueras, U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal, R-Gainesville, and the company commander, Capt. Jeff Moran.

Also, students from Martin Elementary School in South Hall are set to lead in giving the Pledge of Allegiance.

"We’re going to try to get everybody who’s (at the event) to sign up to help (with families) some way or another," said Dellinger, who also is scheduled to speak.

Taylor said the send-off might drift past two hours, which is fine by him.

"For a lot of guys ... this will be a good, first deployment (with) community involvement. And for most of us who have had multiple deployments, we’ve never seen this kind of community involvement, so it’s great all around for everybody."

Taylor added, "There’s nothing worse than being deployed thinking nobody cares about you."

Much of the 48th Brigade will be deployed.

A similar farewell ceremony for Bravo Company in Covington is set for 2 p.m. Friday on the Covington square. And a family day picnic is planned for Friday at Fort Yargo State Park for the Echo Forward Support Company in Winder.

"This time will allow soldiers and families to enjoy their time together prior to deployment," said American Veterans Commander Post 12 Bob Heiss, who is working with other volunteers with Operation Patriot’s Call.

"These brave soldiers are Georgia’s daughters, sons, moms, dads, neighbors, co-workers, business partners, friends and loved ones. They have demonstrated their willingness time and again to put their lives on hold to serve our nation."

The Barrow County News and Covington News contributed to this story.