The 288th Engineer Company of the 223rd Battalion of the Mississippi National Guard has invited the community to a welcome home ceremony set for 2 p.m. Sunday at Houston High School.
“This will be our first weekend drill since we returned from deployment,” said Capt. Brenton Montgomery, spokesman for the 288th. “Houston showed up on the Square to see us off and we wanted to thank them for their support while we were in Afghanistan.”
The 223rd left from Houston in October 5, 2011 for Ft. Killeen, Texas and then Afghanistan. They returned to Tupelo Airport on Sept. 25, 2012.
“The welcome home at Tupelo was great, but our guys were ready to see their family and get home,” said Montgomery. “Sunday’s ceremony will be our way of formally saying thank you to this community.”
Sunday’s event will be in the auditorium of Houston High School and is expected to last about an hour. All veterans — regardless of branch or time of service – will be asked to stand at Sunday’s ceremony.
The City of Houston will also rename a street in Houston as Veteran’s Boulevard in honor of the 288th and all veterans from Houston.
“Most of the families did not want a banquet and we chose to do this as a way of thanking Houston for supporting our troops,” said Miriam Garner, whose husband Jesse was deployed with the unit. “This community did a lot for the families while the troops were gone and they also kept in touch while they were overseas.
“That meant a lot to those of us left behind and it meant a lot to those deployed,” said Garner. “This really is going to be more of a thank you ceremony than anything else. I hope churches, businesses and families will encourage people to come out and be part of this.”
Montgomery said the ceremony will be simple and not as big or formal as the sendoff on the Square.
“We will have a speaker and our top officers will have a part on the program,” said Montgomery. “This community has a history of supporting this guard unit and that’s not something you see in every town. We want to thank the community for that.”
Montgomery pointed out just about everyone in Houston is kin to someone who is in the unit or at least knows a Sapper.
“I think part of that relationship comes from the strong family ties this unit has with this community,” said Montgomery. “At one time 90-percent of this unit came from Houston, and while that number is now about 50-percent, Houston still shows us an incredible amount of support.”