FORSYTH — After 30 parades all across the state, it’d be easy to think that members of the Georgia National Guard’s 48th Brigade might get a feeling of redundancy.
Not at all, said Brig. Gen. Maria Britt, commander of the state’s National Guard.
“It’s rewarding to come out and see this support,” she said. “All of them have been different, but all of them have been great.”
Thursday’s parade in Forsyth for the 148th HHC Battalion Companies B and C was a perfect final send-off in a small-town community as members of the battalion marched along Johnston Street before standing in formation in front of Courthouse Square with hundreds of people waving flags and holding homemade signs.
“This really has a hometown feel,” Britt said. “It’s real grass-roots support. We’re a community-based group. These are citizen-soldiers. They live in hometown America. When the Guard goes to war, we bring America with us.”
The 148th, a support battalion of the 48th Brigade, will leave for Camp Adaberry in Indiana this week for about 45 days of training for the brigade’s mission in Afghanistan, which will be to train Afghan soldiers and police officers to defend that country’s borders. About 2,500 members of the brigade will spend about 10 months in Afghanistan for the mission. Some units already have shipped overseas.
Jean Vendeville of Macon held up a sign for his son, Liam, who is making his first deployment overseas. Vendeville, a native of France, said seeing his son lined up in formation with the rest of his battalion was an emotional experience.
“The biggest emotion there is concern,” he said. “I know he is very well-trained and that he will be kept safe, but there’s still concern. I saw on the news this morning that the Taliban is getting stronger. But we are a very proud family.”
Standing next to Vendeville was his older son, Phelan, wearing his Navy uniform. Phelan Vendeville, who is two years older than Liam, served overseas in Kuwait and is currently a petty officer aboard the USS Farragut.
Britt was one of several speakers at the event, along with state Rep. Jim Cole, R-Forsyth, Forsyth Mayor Tye Howard, Monroe County Commission Chairman James Vaughn, Task Force Phoenix commander Brig. Gen. Larry Dudney and battalion commander Lt. Col. Perry Carter.
Each of the speakers commended the soldiers and their families for their sacrifice.
Howard said the parade is the city’s way of giving something back to the soldiers.
“As far as we’re concerned, the 148th and all of the National Guard is representing us,” he said. “On behalf of us, they are taking a sense of freedom with them. We take seriously the danger they are going into. ... We’re looking forward to them coming back.”
Cole said he feels a connection with the soldiers and is proud of them as a Georgian and American.
“You feel selfish in a way, because you are benefiting from all of their hard work,” he said.
Vaughn likely summed up the feelings of many in the crowd with his remarks.
“It’s a great day to be an American,” he said to the crowd. “Doesn’t it make you proud to be out here and give these soldiers the support and respect they deserve?”
To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.