Families say goodbye to soldiers

Published 5:40 pm Monday, January 3, 2011

FAIRHOPE — Members of the 1165th Military Police unit received a sendoff Monday as they prepared for a year of service in Afghanistan.

The National Guard unit — which includes about 25 members from the Brewton area — will train for about a month at Camp Shelby in Mississippi before their deployment.

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“You are the best of the best, the cream of the crop,” U.S. Rep. Jo Bonner told the soldiers. “You are the ones others look up to.”

At the ceremony, held at the Fairhope Civic Complex, Brig. Gen. Charles Gales singled out an audience member who held a sign reading “You are our heroes.”

“To the families, I want you to know they are not our only heroes,” he said. “You are our heroes also. Your sacrifice is appreciated and not forgotten.”

The 1165th is on its third tour of active wartime duty; the unit also served in Desert Storm and in Operation Iraqi Freedom. The unit received the highest unit commendation — the Presidential Unit Citation — for valor in Iraq in 2003.

Giving the unit its official orders, Lt. Col. James McLong ended with a simple request: “I order you to return safely.”