900th Maintenance Company departs
A departure ceremony was held for the 900th Maintenance Company of the Alabama National Guard at Cattleman Park Tuesday afternoon with an estimated crowd of 1,100 on hand to wish the unit God’s speed.
The company left for Camp Atterbury in Indiana around 10 p.m. Tuesday. The guardsmen will continue training at Camp Atterbury for about 40 days and then be deployed to Afghanistan where their mission will be transporting supplies from province to province.
Leaving family, home and friends behind is what pulls on the heartstrings when answering the call to duty.
But once the 179 members of the 900th Maintenance Company get past the “hardest part” – saying goodbye – they will turn their attention to getting on with the mission and getting back home.
“A year seems like a long time but, if you stay busy the time will go by pretty quick,” said Henry Middlebrooks who speaks from experience. He was deployed to Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Storm. “I’m ready to get going so we can get back home. I think everyone feels the same way. We’ve got a mission to do so let’s go do it.”
The 900th Maintenance Company was deployed to Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Storm but its mission in Afghanistan will be different.
“We are a maintenance company but this time we’ll be hauling supplies in a combat zone,” Middlebrooks said. “So this mission will be more stressful but we are confident in our training and we are excited about this opportunity.”
Although Larry Revels is leaving an eight-year-old daughter and a four-year-old granddaughter behind, he, too, is excited about the opportunity to serve his country “across the ocean.”
“In 2003, I was a part of Homeland security and I just didn’t feel right not being a part of a mission like this,” he said. “I’m miss my family but this is something that I’m proud to get a chance to do.”
The men and women who are serving with the 900th come from all across the state, from all walks of life and span several decades of life. The younger guardsmen are eager to use the skills they recently acquired in basic training and those who are more experienced are confident in their abilities to lead and to perform any and all duties required of them.
“The National Guard is something that I have wanted to do since I was 17 years old,” said April Destafino as she wiped tears away.
“I had to wait until my children were older. This is my second deployment. The first was to Iraq. But I’m proud to serve and my children understand.”
Richard Kirby said the National Guard has been a blessing to him and his family. His wife, Charlotte, is disabled and the Guard has helped him stay on sound footing.
However, he struggled with words to express his feelings on being away from his wife and three children for a year.
“I feel like one man fishing for a whale,” he said. “It’s going to be difficult.”
Anthony Lumpkin agreed that being away will be difficult but he knows that it’s also going to be difficult for his wife, Lathosia.
There will be a void in her life that she will have to deal with every day.
“We’ll have so much to do that I’ll be busy most of the time,” he said. “That will help the time go by faster for me. But this is going to be hard on our families, maybe harder.”
Emotions were a mixed bag Tuesday but, as Mayor Jimmy Ramage said, the one emotion that rose to the top was pride.
“The city of Brundidge takes great pride in the 900th Maintenance Company and I know that they all feel a sense of pride in the mission they are about to undertake. We wish them God’s speed and look forward to a year from now when they are back home with us.”