County guardsmen honored

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Four Alabama Army National Guardsmen from Pike County were among 47 guardsmen who received Alabama Commendation Medal from Gov. Bob Riley during a ceremony in the old House Chamber at the Alabama Capitol on Friday.

Jeremy Price, J.J. Burkett, Anthony Kilpatrick and Jimmy Evans received the medals for the role they played in providing assistance to the victims of a church bus accident on Interstate 20 near Meridian, Mississippi on July 12.

The four guardsmen are members of the Alabama Army National Guard’s Detachment of the 2101st Transportation Company and were returning from training at Camp Shelby to the unit’s headquarters in Aliceville. The guardsmen’s bus was traveling behind a church bus carrying a youth group from the First Baptist Church of Shreveport to an event in Macon, Georgia when a tire blew out causing the bus to roll over three times.

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“Our bus stopped immediately and several guys jumped out and ran to the bus,” Price said.

“They motioned for us ,and we all jumped out and ran to help.”

Price said it was a horrific scene.

“There were a lot of injuries, some of them trauma to the head and one boy was killed,” Price said. “Everybody was crying and some were screaming. It was an sad place to be.”

The bus had flipped on its side and two young girls had been thrown out and were trapped under the bus.

The soldiers, who are headed to Iraq in January, had recently received training in how to right an overturned bus.

“It took all 47 of us but we picked the bus up so they could get the girls out,” Price said.

“We then started to evaluate the injuries and moved the walking wounded away from the area. Some of us blocked off traffic so the emergency vehicles could get through.”

Unit members trained in triage began to treat the most seriously injured until the emergency crews arrived, some by ambulance and others by “medivac.”

There were 17 teenagers in the church bus and six adults. Most suffered injuries.

“One of the girls that was trapped under the bus died in the hospital,” Price said. “It was an awful thing and I’m just glad we were there to do what we could.”

Burkett’s civilian job is as a state trooper. He said the church bus accident was as bad as almost any wreck he has worked.

The 2101st will deploy to Iraq in January for what is expected to be a year’s tour of duty.

Price, Burkett, Evans, Kilpatrick and Price have been friends since high school at Pike County.

They joined the Alabama Army National Guard in the buddy program and served a tour of duty in Iraq in 2004-05.