10/17/05 — Monument pays tribute to soldiers

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Monument pays tribute to soldiers

By Renee Carey
Published in News on October 17, 2005 1:50 PM

For Rebecca Outlaw, the worst part about her son, Carl's 10-month deployment with the 230th Support Battalion of the Army National Guard was the waiting.

"You worried all the time about them," she said. "You wanted to feel like you were doing something for them. You knew it was harder for them over there than it was for you back home."

And over in Iraq, battalion members went about completing their duties in support of the 30th Brigade, transporting supplies and water as well as assisting with some medical duties as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

They did their jobs like the professionals they are, serving with distinction both on the battlefields and behind the scenes, Sgt. Maj. William Gill said.

But that didn't mean that they, too, weren't thinking of home, and the families who were struggling to get along without them.

"They depend on you, and then you are plucked out, and they have to carry on," he said.

But the soldiers had to set aside their thoughts of home as they did their jobs on the field.

So, when a box came from the Family Support group back home, thoughts of loved ones came rushing back.

"It was like Christmas," Gill said. "Anytime anyone got a box, it was like everyone got one. We shared everything. It meant so much."

Now, months after the unit returned home, members of the Family Support group wanted to do something for the soldiers again, this time to show them just how proud they were of the work they did.

The group unveiled a monument in front of the National Guard Armory Sunday commemorating all the National Guard servicemen and women of the 230th Support Battalion who served in Iraq.

The large rock monument will hopefully soon be accompanied by a walkway with individual bricks bearing the names of the soldiers who served, said Shirley Grice, Family Support coordinator.

She told the soldiers gathered Sunday that the monument is a tribute to their sacrifice and service to their country.

"We are proud of you," she said.

Battalion commander Maj. Jeffrey Bain thanked the members of the Family Support group for their constant messages from home as well as the teddy bear project that sent thousands of bears overseas for soldiers to give out to the Iraqi children.

"Family Support is the lifeline for our soldiers," he said. "They are our connection to home, and a source of support and comfort for our spouses and families who are left behind to deal with the day-to-day stuff."

For Wendy Davenport, sitting at home and waiting for news about her husband, Michael, was the hardest part of his time in Iraq.

"I had just gotten married in May, and they left in October (2004)," she said.

Newly married, alone, worried, she said she wasn't sure if she could make it on her own.

And then she met Mrs. Grice and the other members of the Family Support group.

"They were a tremendous help," she said. "If it wasn't for them, I don't know whether I would have made it."

Now, after he has returned home, honoring those who served just seemed like the right way to acknowledge the hard work he did, she said.

Mrs. Grice is no stranger to the life of a military wife.

Her husband, who recently retired from the Guard, led the battalion in Iraq.

Then 59 1/2 years old, Command Sgt. Maj. Spillman Grice Jr. could have asked for a diversion rather than heading to Iraq since he was months away from the mandatory retirement age. He served instead.

Grice said the monument will be a fitting tribute by their community to the men and women who served so admirably in Iraq.

"The soldiers don't need something to remember that they were there," he said. "They will never forget what they have been through."

He said the men and women of the 230th Support Battalion served with courage and honor.

"Even when we were in hostile conditions, these soldiers never gave up the idea of compassion for the people of Iraq," he said.

Even now, the soldiers and families are still thinking of the children, he said. They have gathered more teddy bears and assembled about 800 boxes of school supplies to send overseas.

Other members of the Family Support group who participated in the monument project, in addition to Mrs. Grice, Mrs. Davenport and Mrs. Outlaw, include Sharon Herring, who volunteered in honor of her nephew, Justin Herring, and Mary Williams, whose son, Leon, served with the battalion. Also assisting were Mrs. Williams's daughter, Cheryl, and her granddaughter, Shauntoya, as well Melissa Thames, also a military wife, who currently works as a liaison with the Family Support group.