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Guardsmen honored for service in Iraq

By By MICHELE GERLACH Publisher
Members of the 1165th unit of the Alabama National Guard in Brewton were formally recognized Saturday morning with an "Operation Freedom Salute" ceremony recognizing them for their service last year in Iraq.
"As you know, these soldiers spent 18 months on federal, active duty and 14 months overseas," Capt. Chris Butler, who commanded the unit in Iraq, said. "We are here to honor these soldiers and their family members for sacrifices.
Butler now serves with the 1200th Quartermaster Battalion based in Ashland.
1st Lt. Kevin Smith, a former platoon leader for the 1165th, reminded those gathered of a promise he made when the group was activated.
Struggling to control his voice, he added, "We have everybody."
Col. Jeff Kinard, commander of the 226th area support in Mobile, said something happened in Iraq in January that no one in the world believed would happen.
The ceremony was part of a nationwide campaign to honor guardsmen for their services overseas. Each soldier was given an encased American flag, lapels pin for soldier and his or her spouse, and a medallion that each soldier will give a special family member.
Two special awards also were presented.
Sgt. Maj. (Ret.) James Wallace received the unit's center of influence award for his support prior to the unit's deployment. Wanda Williams received the unit's Minuteman Award for her support during their deployment.
The day was doubly special for Sgt. Clemon E. McGill. Saturday marked his last Guard drill - He's retiring.