By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Weekend parade honors Charlie Company unit


Listen as Charlie Company celebration organizer Ron Kellner talks about Saturday’s event marking the return of the Gainesville-based Georgia Army National Guard unit.

Charlie Company parade
When: Parade, 9:50 a.m.; ceremony, 10:30 a.m.
Where: Parade starts at the National Guard Armory on Alta Vista Road and ends at Lakeshore Mall on Pearl Nix Parkway; ceremony will take place at the mall
Contact: Ron Kellner, 770-534-2509

A celebration is planned for Saturday welcoming the return this spring of Charlie Company, a Gainesville-based Georgia Army National Guard unit deployed in Afghanistan.

The soldiers are scheduled to leave the National Guard Armory on Alta Vista Road about 9:50 a.m. and head in a parade to Lakeshore Mall by way of John Morrow and Pearl Nix parkways.

They will be joined on the route by the Hall County Sheriff’s Office color guard, the Georgia State Defense Force Band and a couple of vehicles from the Gainesville-based 802nd Ordnance Company, a U.S. Army Reserve unit in Afghanistan.

"We’re hoping to get as many (spectators) as we can lining John Morrow and Pearl Nix," said Ron Kellner, an organizer with the parade’s sponsor, Operation Patriot’s Call, a group dedicated to helping families of deployed soldiers.

Charlie Company will march into Lakeshore Mall at the Belk entrance, going through U.S. flags hoisted up by two Gainesville Fire Department ladder trucks, Kellner said.

A ceremony honoring the guardsmen will take place about 10:30 a.m. at the mall, including a presentation of colors and children of Charlie Company members leading the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Also, the company commander, Capt. Jeff Moran, and Lt. Col. Matt Smith, 1st Battalion commander of the guard’s 121 Infantry (Light) Regiment, 48th Infantry Brigade, are set to speak.

After the ceremony, Charlie Company will march back to the armory but this time using Pearl Nix and Jones Street.

"As they come back (to the armory), we’re going to feed all the troops and their families, and then we’re going to hold a job fair for them," Kellner said.

"Hopefully, some of the troops that won’t be staying in the National Guard will have an opportunity to get a job or get on the road to start looking for one."

Those hoping to attend the parade are asked to arrive early and park on the Shallowford Road side of the mall, and then get in place along one of the parkways by 9:30 a.m.

At 9:30 a.m., Pearl Nix Parkway will be closed between Touchdown Drive and Shallowford Road. John Morrow Parkway will be closed between Jesse Jewell Parkway and Shallowford.

Boy Scouts will hand out U.S. flags to spectators before the parade.

"There’s a whole lot of people involved ... to pull (the event) off," Kellner said.

"I think it’s going to be great. It’s wonderful that we have the opportunity to recognize our local people, local soldiers who have (served) in helping defend freedom."

Charlie Company troops began returning home in late March, coming home in several waves, after about a year in Afghanistan.

The unit was charged with responsibility for all Afghan National Security Force development in the Paktika province in southeast Afghanistan.

"They did a phenomenal job adapting to and overcoming all the challenges that were thrown at us," Moran said.

Trained for infantry, the soldiers had to become skilled at numerous tasks.

"We are trying to legitimize a government over there," Moran said. "(The Afghans) are not used to having one. It’s very tribal."

He said he is excited about the homecoming celebration, which he described as a meaningful event for Charlie Company and the community.

Moran also said the possibility for Charlie Company being redeployed in three to five years is real.

"We’ll be trained and ready if and when the time comes," he said.