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Alpha Battery heads out
03.06 lee-grover
Battery commander 1st Lt. Patrick Grover accepts a flag from Rincon Mayor Ken Lee. - photo by Photo by Sandi Van Orden

Whereas: the citizens of Effingham County and our entire nation have enjoyed the heritage of freedom. Our forefathers in Effingham County enjoyed this freedom and paid for that freedom with the blood of citizens, citizen soldiers and over 250 of these citizen soldiers from Effingham County defended the freedom of our young nation in the Revolutionary War.

Whereas: in September 1940 the Effingham citizen soldiers once again answered the cause and served our nation and her citizens during World War II. The 30th MP unit was deployed to the European theater and saw action in France and Germany.

Whereas: this is the proud history of citizen soldiers in our nation, our Minutemen, who continue to volunteer and serve when called to action in the cause of freedom.

Whereas: it is with the same spirit and willingness to serve that Effingham’s own Alpha Battery, 1st Battalion, 118th Field Artillery Regiment is once again answering the second call to duty in the current war, Enduring Freedom, carrying the call of duty across the world to a faraway place, Afghanistan. The Alpha Battery served a tour of service in Iraq in 2005-2006.

Be it known that our troops will deploy to active duty on Tuesday, March 3, 2009, following a brief period of additional training will go to combat duty in Afghanistan.

Now therefore be it proclaimed by the governmental entities hereto named that this week of March 3-9, 2009, is hereby designated as Alpha Battery Week in the county of Effingham, the municipalities of Guyton, Rincon and Springfield, and the environs of Effingham County.

Further be it proclaimed to all that as we send these troops, as representation of our best, we do so with our sincere wishes for their good health and safety and wish God’s speed and grace with them as they are called to serve.

Now therefore this proclamation shall be presented to the unit prior to their departure and shall be spread across the minutes of these governmental bodies undersigned, and that this proclamation be published in the Effingham Herald for all citizens to know and take part in the pride of their own Minutemen and remember them in their prayers as they serve our nation in faraway places.

The members of Alpha Battery got a final warm embrace from the community on a chilly morning.

Friends, family and complete strangers gathered in Springfield and Rincon on Tuesday morning to bid the more than 90 members of Alpha Battery 1/118 Field Artillery Battalion a farewell as they head off for one last round of training before taking up their mission in Afghanistan.

Staff Sgt. Kenny Lee’s family huddled in the cold in Springfield to watch the procession down Laurel Street before heading to Rincon to catch the parade make its way down Columbia Avenue.

“This is the first time we’ve been able to see him go and stressed over it,” said Trisha Myrick.

This is Lee’s third deployment — his first two were to Iraq, including a stint in that theater with the 4th Infantry Division.

“It is never easy,” said his wife, Amee Lee.

For Alpha Battery and the bulk of the Georgia Army National Guard’s 48th Brigade, this is their second call up to duty since the war on terror began. Most of the 4,500-man unit was mobilized for 15 months for Operation Iraqi Freedom, beginning in early 2005. About half of the Springfield-based unit has had prior combat experience.

“This is an important day for the community and certainly a very important day for the soldiers and their families,” said Lamar Crosby, a retired Army colonel and Vietnam veteran. “We just want to take this opportunity to say how much you mean to the community and how important we believe your mission is and that we all stand behind you and your families.”

Before its departure to Iraq in 2005, Alpha Battery received a similar sendoff. While in Iraq, many 48th Brigade soldiers were attached to the Fort Stewart-based 3rd Infantry Division. In Afghanistan, these units could be broken up and dispatched to a variety of units in the country.

Even the mission is likely to change for Alpha Battery — they probably won’t be firing the big M109A6 Paladin self-propelled 155mm howitzers. Their mission, as originally staked out when their activation was announced, is to train Afghan national security forces.

“Before, he was an air traffic controller,” Myrick said of her son, Staff Sgt. Lee. “Now, he’s going as an infantryman.”

Alpha Battery will go to Afghanistan by way of Camp Shelby, Miss., where they will undergo a few more weeks of training before deploying.

“We are proud of you,” Ruth Lee told the soldiers as they formed up in front of the county’s administrative complex. “Our prayers and our thanks and every minute of our thoughts will go with you as our 21st century minutemen. You have come from a long line of minutemen, going back to the American Revolution. We are praying for your safety and may God protect you and bring you home safely.”

For the families, the parade and the community turnout were welcome sights, even as their soldiers marched off for their year away from home.

“I think it was great,” Amee Lee said. “He didn’t have this before. I thought it was nice with the community coming together.”

U.S. forces in Afghanistan
• Currently: Approx. 38,000
• Requested: Additional 17,000

Coalition forces in Afghanistan
• Currently: Approx. 19,000
• Number of countries involved: 42