Area National Guard unit members headed home

By Lisa Voyles/Chickasaw Journal

HOUSTON – Members of the 288th Sapper unit of the Mississippi National Guard will soon be reunited with their families and friends following a yearlong deployment to Afghanistan.

The unit left Houston Oct. 5, 2011 and is expected back in the area just a few days shy of a calendar year, arriving as a unit at the Tupelo Regional Airport and from there returning to their individual home towns.

“We don’t have a firm date yet,” said Capt. Brenton Montgomery. “We will be back in the States on or around Sept. 15-17 at Fort Bliss (Texas). At Fort Bliss, we will go through the de-mobilization process and return home to Tupelo once we are all complete. I expect we will get back to Mississippi on or around the 25th or 26th.”

Once the unit reaches Tupelo, they will be free to return home until their next guard drill, but many members will be making the trip back to Houston. Businesses and residents are encouraged to dress up the area in patriotic colors to welcome home the troops.

“People have no idea what it means to these guys to see all the flags and signs when they come back, just like when they left,” said Miriam Garner of Houston. Garner’s husband, Jesse, will be returning from his third tour overseas. “When they left, people were out waving flags and signs and posters and we’d like for it to be the same way when they come back.”

The 288th adopted the name “Hilltoppers” and took a Topper flag along with them to their Forward Operating Base in honor of Houston, where the Armory is located. Garner said she felt mixing in Hilltopper flags and American flags would be appropriate for the soldier’s return that coincides with football season and will come just before the Houston Homecoming game Oct. 4.

“They should be back in time to raise the flag at the football field,” Garner said.