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Still close to the heart
Memorial Day ceremony pays tribute to late Veterans Park board members and to Alpha Battery on duty
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A salute to the flag. - photo by Photo by Pat Donahue

As Effingham County citizens marked Memorial Day on Monday and paid their respects to those who had died in service to the nation, they also kept in their thoughts dozens of local soldiers thousands of miles away from home.

Monday’s ceremony at Veterans Park in Springfield was dedicated to the veterans of World War II and paid special tribute to three members of the Veterans Park board who had passed away in recent months.

Attendees also got an update on the members of Alpha Battery of the 118th Field Artillery Battalion, the Springfield-based Georgia Army National Guard unit that has been deployed to Afghanistan.

The battery’s three platoons have been split, with each platoon getting a different unit assignment, said Sgt. 1st Class Richard Socia of the battery’s rear detachment.

“Each soldier is handling the separation and anxiety differently,” he said. “Some read, some play video games, watch movies, surf the net, exercise and whatever else they can do to coincide with being separated.”

There are about 100 soldiers in Alpha Battery and the soldiers trained at Camp Shelby, Miss., and at Fort Stewart prior to their departure last month. The rest of the 118th will join Alpha Battery soon, according to Socia.

Living conditions for Alpha Battery soldiers are decent, Socia said, considering the situation and locations where they are.

“Soldiers have the opportunity to call home, send e-mail and even (have) web cams to send videos,” he said.

The Veterans Park is sponsoring a fundraising drive to buy phone cards for Alpha Battery members in Afghanistan to use. The cards are $10 each.

Also honored at the ceremony were deceased Veterans Park board members Toni Freeman, George Usher and Henry Wilkins. Freeman was a WAVE who transferred messages from the Pacific Theater in World War II to Washington.

Usher joined the Navy at 18 and served on a repair ship in the South Pacific during the Second World War. Wilkins served in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War and retired after 26 years as a lieutenant colonel.

To buy phone cards to Alpha Battery troops, send donations to:
Veterans Park
PO Box 1078
Springfield GA, 31329.