By Floyd Ingram/Chickasaw Journal
HOUSTON – The brown sign simply says Veteran’s Memorial Highway, but to the members of the 288th Sappers it is a lasting mark of their service to their community and country.
Chickasaw County and Northeast Mississippi welcomed home the 288th Sapper Company of the Mississippi National Guard on Sunday with the bypass around Houston named in honor of all veterans who have served. Sunday’s ceremonies at Houston High School also marked the unit’s first drill since it returned from Afghanistan on Sept. 25.
“May this highway and this sign be a reminder to us of your service,” said Northern Highway Commissioner Mike Tagart. “May it also serve as a reminder to you of our appreciation for your sacrifice to this country and this state.”
Capt. Brenton Montgomery, 288th commander, said the unit accomplished much during its year-long tour of Uruzgan province in southern Afghanistan.
“We served with troops from Australia, Slovakia, Singapore and, of course, Afghanistan,” said Montgomery. “We trained and worked alongside the first route clearing company of the Afghanistan Army.”
Montgomery also pointed out the 288th has the highest IED detection and disposal numbers in southern Afghanistan. They also had the highest detection and disposal rate using ground-penetrating radar and bomb disposal dogs.
And Montgomery also issued a personal thank you to the community.
“Without your support through care packages, letters and prayers we wouldn’t have made it,” he added. “Thank you for not forgetting us while we were in Afghanistan.”
The unit has a history stretching back to the Korean Conflict, the Berlin Crisis and the Vietnam War. In September 2004, the company was deployed to Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom to conduct combat operations. In June 2007 the 288th was deployed to Iraq for a second time to clear routes. The most recent deployment, from October 2011 to September 2012, was to Afghanistan, again to clear roads of explosives.