Polk County residents and other supporters braved frigid weather Monday to honor local soldiers and send them off with a parade and a patriotic ceremony.
Cedartown’s Delta Company is one of five National Guard units that make up the 108th Cavalry, which will deploy later this year to Afghanistan. The Calhoun-based unit also was deployed to Iraq, 2005-2006, as an armor battalion. The 108th has since completed a transition to a cavalry squadron.
A parade down Main Street in Cedartown at 12:30 p.m. was followed at 1 p.m. with speeches, songs and prayer at the Cedartown Civic Auditorium on East Avenue.
U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Marietta) was among the speakers. Gingrey praised the company for their rapid transition to its new mission. He also noted the personal sacrifices they are making in leaving behind families and jobs for yet another overseas tour of duty.
“As you deploy, keep faith in your training … but most of all, in yourselves,” Gingrey said.
Gingrey also spoke about the mission the soldiers will be undertaking in Afghanistan. While the country faces many problems and victory has proved difficult, there have been successes, he said. That country’s 50 million voters took part in their first ever elections in 2004.
Messages were also presented Monday by spokespersons for Sen. Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss.
Further inspiration, and humor, was provided by retired Army Col. James E. Glaze. He provided some advice for fighting discouragement, which he demonstrated with three props: A bag of M&M candy, a blue ribbon and a mirror.
First, Glaze said, he hopes the soldiers will remember the “three M’s” of “Mission, Men and Me.” The mission is foremost, he said. Close behind is taking care of their fellow soldiers, male and female. And last, he told them, soldiers must remember to take care of themselves so that they can take care of others.
The blue ribbon is to remind them that their goal is victory.
“You’re in a business in which there is no second place,” Glaze said. “There are only winners or losers.”
The mirror is “to remind yourself of how other people see you,” Glaze said.
A devotion was presented by the Rev. Randall Eidson, of Kansas Baptist Church in Waco. Eidson quoted from John 14:6 -- "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Eidson encouraged all the soldiers to embrace Christianity and to accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior.
Ending comments were presented by Delta Company Capt. Justin Bealieu. He thanked the audience for their participation and said he felt “I should be saluting you.”
When planning for the send-off ceremony began a few weeks ago, Bealieu said, “I don’t think we ever expected the community response we saw here today.”
Other participants for the presentation included Northside Elementary School fifth-graders, singing “God Bless America”; the Cedartown High School Chorus, singing “O Shenandoah”; Polk County Schools Superintendent Marvin Williams, singing “God Bless the USA”; and Hailey Conger, niece of Delta Company member Robert Robinson, singing “The Star Spangled Banner.”