WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), a Senior Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, this week welcomed home over 2,600 Oklahoma National Guardsmen from Iraq. Members of the Oklahoma National Guard 45th Infantry Brigade have been arriving home over the past few weeks. The deployment of 2,600 Oklahoma National Guardsmen was the largest contingent of Oklahoma Guardsmen to deploy since the Korean War.
"With deep gratitude, appreciation and with a job well done, I am proud to join my fellow Oklahomans in welcoming home over 2,600 Oklahoma National Guardsmen," Senator Inhofe said. "These brave men and women in the Oklahoma national guard have made us proud and deserve our utmost admiration. Oklahoma currently stands as one of the greatest contributors of mobilized Guardsmen in the War on Terrorism. Whether serving our state at home or our nation abroad, Oklahomans can take pride in the quality and dedication of our citizen-soldiers."
As a Senior Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Inhofe has made several trips to Iraq and Afghanistan to monitor the progress of the war and to meet with Oklahoma troops. As recently as March, Senator Inhofe, accompanied by Maj. Gen. Harry M. "Bud" Wyatt III, Adjutant General of Oklahoma, visited members of the Oklahoma National Guard 45th Infantry Brigade (the "Thunderbirds") who were stationed in detainee operations at Camp Cropper in Baghdad and Camp Bucca in the al-Basrah Governorate. While these Oklahomans have served in many different capacities throughout the Global War on Terror, the majority of Oklahoma's Thunderbirds were stationed at the detainment facilities of Camp Cropper and Camp Bucca, playing an invaluable role in conducting detainee operations in Iraq.
"I have never been as proud to serve our great state and this nation as when I had the opportunity to meet with these troops and witness their selfless service to our country. Our Oklahoma Guardsmen and women served tirelessly in Iraq, and because of their commitment, comprehensive improvements have been made to the detainee operations system in Iraq.
"Thanks to the tremendous work of our troops, progress is now being made in Iraq. I am encouraged to see that the Iraqis are capitalizing on the success of the surge, and beginning to bring about positive change on their own. Our brave servicemen and women will be part of the history that witnesses the beginning of a new democracy. I am humbled to know them and I am proud to serve them."
***"Inhofe Salutes" provides a sampling of the numerous news stories reported in the Oklahoma media highlighting the courage, honor, and commitment of the men and women of the United States Armed Services. Read more at www.inhofe.senate.gov/jimsjournal
Oklahoma Press Telling the Heroic Stories of Oklahoma Troops
The McAlester News-Capital: Local guard members are home from the war zone (October 18, 2008)
By James Beaty Senior Editor
Oklahoma National Guard Specialist Eric Moore, 21, says it's good to be back in McAlester after a year in Iraq - but it's different. "It's changed," Moore said of the city he left last October for training in Texas before heading for a year's tour of duty in the Iraq war zone. How has McAlester changed? "They're building the hotels," he said, referring to new hotel construction which is under way. "They bulldozed the bowling alley," Moore said, referring to the Rocket Bowl, a city landmark that had been dismantled and then shipped north to Muskogee. "And they didn't have a Chili's when I left," he said, giving a mention to the Chili's Grill & Bar restaurant in McAlester which opened in March. "It's amazing." "And driving on U.S. Highway 270 toward Hartshorne, you see all the new buildings" related to the natural gas and oil industry, Moore said. So how is it to be back in this changed city? "It's great," he said. Moore's sentiments about how great it felt to be back in Oklahoma were repeated by other guardsmen who returned to the George Nigh National Guard Armory on Friday. They were among the approximately 275 Guardsmen from the Company A First Battalion of the 180th Infantry and E Troop of the 145th Cavalry who deployed to Iraq from the McAlester Armory last year. In Iraq, they had been stationed in Baghdad and worked in detainee operations. On Monday, they had been reunited with their families during a ceremony in Bethany and then were allowed to spend several days at home.
KXII-TV: Ardmore students help welcome home area troops (October 15, 2008)
ARDMORE, Okla. -- Some Ardmore High School students are welcoming area troops home in style. As part of their class project, students were asked to create a ‘welcome home' banner for the National Guard 345th Corps Support Battalion. The soldiers landed Monday in Bethany, Oklahoma, and will be returning to Ardmore sometime this week. The students say it is the least they could do for the men and women who have fought for our country."The reasons why we decided to do the sign for the National Guard troops that are coming home is because we really appreciate all the work that they have been doing, and we have so many families that have loved ones that are fighting in the war, and so we just wanted to so them a little bit of how we appreciate them, so we decided to make a sign.," Ardmore High School student Vaunda Knapp says.
Stillwater NewsPress: Happy to be home - More than 200 return from deployment in Iraq (October 13, 2008)
By Darla Slipke
BETHANY - Laura Arzola said her son, Malachi, asked for his father virtually every night as she tucked him into bed while her husband, Jesse, was serving in Iraq. Even as a two-year-old, Malachi understood the sense of separation and sacrifice that was pervasive among soldiers and their families who were reunited Sunday in Oklahoma City after a year-long deployment. Jesse Arzola was one of more than 200 Oklahoma Army National Guard troops - nearly half of whom were from Stillwater - who returned home this weekend from deployment to Iraq. The soldiers arrived in two groups and were greeted by friends and family and a welcoming ceremony at Southern Nazarene University's Sawyer Center. The returning soldiers are part of about 2,500 Army National Guard troops who will be returning from Iraq during the next eight days. Nearly 1,000 more are preparing to deploy to Iraq and Kuwait during the next few months.
Ada Evening News: Thanks to the Troops (October 20, 2008)
Judd Morse Staff Writer
More than 500 Oklahoma Army National Guardsmen came home this week after spending a year deployed in Iraq. The soldiers are part of a larger group of National Guardsmen of more than 2,600 troops sent to the Middle East last year in support of Operation: Iraqi Freedom. Returning units were Company C, 1st Battalion, 180th Infantry out of Ada with soldiers from Ada and Holdenville; Company B, 1st Battalion, 179th Infantry out of Alva with soldiers from Alva and Woodward; 1120th Maintenance Company out of Ada with soldiers from Ada, Sulpher, Lawton and Frederick; Headquarters, Headquarters Detachment, 345th Corps Support Battalion out of Ardmore with soldiers from the Ardmore area. Locally a parade was held on Friday to celebrate the return of our 1120th Maintenance Company here in Ada and Oct. 17 has been officially proclaimed "1120th Day" from here on out. Happy faces were spread along Main and Broadway, cheering and waving homemade signs of thanks and American flags. Once the troops made it back to the Armory, the Family Readiness Group, with the gracious help of the Combat Infantrymen Association and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, treated them and theirs to a cookout. We owe these brave men and women more than we can ever say. They placed themselves in a hostile situation in defense of our country, an act which leaves us all forever in their debt. On behalf of the Ada Evening News, thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Your selfless service, the service of every soldier before you and of every future soldier to follow in your footsteps, will always be greatly appreciated.
AP: Last of brigade members returns October 20, 2008 02:51 pm
BETHANY, Okla. (AP) _ The last group of soldiers from the Oklahoma National Guard's 45th Infantry Brigade returned home from Iraq Sunday.
Family and friends cheered as about 225 soldiers walked into the Sawyer Center on the Southern Nazarene University campus. After a brief speech by Maj. Gen. Henry M. Wyatt, the state's adjutant general, the unit was released into the arms of families. The soldiers were the last of 2,600 45th Infantry Brigade members who were deployed for a year. Every soldier came back home. "When you deploy that many soldiers, the odds are kind of against that happening," Wyatt said.
Oklahoman: Final group of Guard members returns safely (October 19, 2008)
By Michael Kimball
The last group of deployed soldiers from the Oklahoma National Guard's 45th Infantry Brigade were welcomed home from Iraq by family and friends this morning at a ceremony on the Southern Nazarene University campus in Bethany. About 225 soldiers walked into the Sawyer Center to raucous cheers, tears and hugs for the 15th and final welcome home ceremony for the unit, which deployed about 2,600 Guard members from Oklahoma for the year-long tour of duty. Every soldier in the unit returned home safely. "When you deploy that many soldiers, the odds are kind of against that happening," Maj. Gen. Henry M. Wyatt, the state's adjutant general, said. "I think that's the single most significant accomplishment that every single person came home." But even as the 45th Infantry Brigade returns fully intact, 300 Guard members from other Oklahoma units remain in Iraq, and another 800 soldiers from the 45th FIRES Brigade deploy Wednesday from Fort Hood in Texas for their own year-long tour there, Wyatt said. "We want them to be looking forward to their own welcome home ceremony and get to experience everything that these soldiers today are experiencing," Wyatt said.
BY MICHAEL KIMBALL
BETHANY - Brooke Ellis, 20, waited a year for her mom to come home from her deployment to Iraq. She waited through 14 other welcoming ceremonies as Oklahoma National Guard soldiers came in plane by plane all week. She checked e-mails as days crept by for news of when her mom would be back. Finally, the day came. Sunday morning, Sgt. Cyndi Ellis and about 225 other soldiers were reunited with their families at a ceremony in Bethany at Southern Nazarene University. As her mother walked into the Sawyer Center while a brass band played, Brooke Ellis' eyes welled with tears. "There's my mom!" she shouted. A year's worth of e-mails and phone calls gave way to hugs and kisses as the last group of about 2,600 soldiers returned to Oklahoma. It was the first overseas deployment for Ellis, but some in the storied 45th Infantry Brigade are veterans of multiple foreign tours. The Oklahoma City resident said being separated from her daughter was difficult, but that made the reunion all the better. "She's my only baby," Ellis said, wiping away tears. But as the weeklong celebration of the soldiers' return ends, about 800 other Oklahoma Guard members deploy in just days. The 45th Fires Brigade leaves Fort Hood, Texas, for Iraq on Wednesday, joining about 300 state Guard members from other units still deployed there. "These things tend to go in cycles,"
TULSA WORLD: Last of 45th Brigade praised at homecoming (October 20, 2008)
by: MANNY GAMALLO World Staff Writer
BETHANY - Mission accomplished. "Totally. Absolutely," said Brig. Gen. Myles Deering, who commanded the 2,600 troops of Oklahoma's 45th Infantry Brigade during the past nine months in Iraq. Deering was among the last wave of troops - 208 of them - to return to Oklahoma on Sunday, capping a weeklong series of welcome-home ceremonies at Southern Nazarene University for the brigade's soldiers. As he spoke from a grandstand, looking out among his seated troops and across the sea of families and friends holding patriotic placards and banners, Deering was effusive in his praise for the work Oklahoma's Army National Guard troops did while in Iraq. "I am so proud to have returned these soldiers who you have entrusted to me," Deering told the families, while also thanking them for the support they showed for their loved ones while overseas. "They have performed marvelously, without fault," the general said of his troops. Recalling a farewell ceremony held for the troops in October 2007, Deering reminded the families that he told them at the time that "these soldiers are going to make you proud." "And that's what they have done," Deering said. Sunday's final arrival marked a year to the day when the Oklahoma Army National Guard was mobilized for service in Iraq. It was the state Guard's largest mobilization since the Korean War. After several months of mission-specific training at Fort Bliss, Texas, the Oklahoma troops started leaving for Iraq in January. They started their return to Fort Bliss earlier this month. While in Iraq, the troops largely helped run prisons holding Iraq's insurgents and terrorists at Camp Cropper, near Baghdad, and at Camp Bucca, which is south of Basra in the southeastern corner of Iraq. Deering said Oklahoma's soldiers also provided security for convoys, along with security missions for special forces. He said the troops performed exactly the way they were trained while at Fort Bliss and during the summer months of 2007 at Camp Gruber near Muskogee.
Tulsa World: Oklahoma Guard members return to their loved ones (October 18, 2008)
By JEFF BILLINGTON World Staff Writer
BETHANY - Roaring cheers, mixed with laughter and tears from several hundred family members and friends, greeted 325 Oklahoma Army National Guard members Friday during a welcome-home ceremony at Southern Nazarene University. Troops from the 45th Infantry Brigade, Company A, 1st Battalion of the 180th Infantry Regiment based in McAlester and the 1245th Transportation Company out of Madill filed excitedly into the Sawyer Center to hear a brief welcome from Maj. Gen. Harry M. Wyatt III, Oklahoma's adjutant general. Both companies deployed to Iraq in January.
Lawton Constitution: Homecoming is a welcome occasion for Altus family (Oct 6 08)
By Mitch Meador
Karen and Kevin Knox of Altus have three daughters of their own, but their family took on the look of a real-life "Brady Bunch" while Karen's sister was in Iraq. Spc. Sharon Maldonado's three children have been living with them since February, and they all agree it's been fun. Maldonado serves with the 1161st Forward Support Company in the Kansas Army National Guard. She has two sons, Mickey, 15, a student at Altus High School, and Anthony, 9, and a daughter, Niki, 13. Andrea Knox, 14, when asked if it was tougher having three extra kids in the house, said, "Kind of. It was fun, though." Her 11-year-old sister, Dessirea, didn't mind, and 9-year-old Kendra said, "It was fun to have." Even their mother said it was fun, and she was the one who had three teenagers under one roof and the job of taking everybody to school.
Guard members get show of support, love (October 13, 2008)
By DENVER NICKS World Staff Writer
BETHANY - For Capt. Rusty Henson and his son Tommy, Sunday afternoon brought a long-awaited reunion. Henson was among the first of the more than 2,600 Oklahoma Army National Guard members of the 45th Infantry Brigade who are returning to Oklahoma this week after a nine-month deployment in Iraq. "Words can't tell you how glad I am to see this fella," said Henson, a single parent, his hand patting his son's hair. "I'm so glad I get to see you. You're the best daddy in the whole world," said Tommy, 7, jumping to wrap his arms around his father's waist.
Lawton Constitution: Comings and goings Heroes, dozens of supporting characters give life to tale of two ceremonies Monday at Sill (October 7, 2008)
By Mitch Meador
One Fort Sill family had a double homecoming on Monday. Kimberly Harrington sat with her two young sons on the front row of the Goldner Fitness Center bleachers, waiting for the return of her husband, Staff Sgt. Joseph Harrington, with the trail party of the 168th Brigade Support Battalion (BSB). Collin, age 4, was holding a sign decorated with one of his handprints and a footprint. His younger brother, 1-year-old Duncan, had personalized it as well and was perched comfortably on his mom's lap. "Move it or lose it, I'm here to get my daddy," one of their posters read. "We're very, very excited," Kimberly said. "You should see our house. I think we have 15 flags up. They're on every window and the doors, too." Duncan was born while her husband was deployed. As a matter of fact, he was born on Aug. 19 - "his daddy's birthday." So, in effect, he was a birthday present to his dad. Another son was unable to make it to the homecoming. Michael, age 12, was in Reynolds Army Community Hospital. "He's been in about a week. He's coming home later today, so we have two homecomings," Kimberly said. The soldiers of the 168th BSB are all safely home now, according to Lt. Col. Greg Dewitt, deputy commander for the 214th Fires Brigade. There were 41 at the first homecoming ceremony on Saturday, 197 at the second and 158 in the group that came back Monday. Re-integration has begun, and the soldiers will be going on block leave later this month. "The soldiers of the 168th BSB ‘Make It Happen' Battalion left Fort Sill 15 months ago to support the Global War on Terror and rebuilding of Iraq.," Dewitt said. "On behalf of Col. (Peter) Baker and Command Sgt. Maj. (Anthony) Williams, we welcome home the last of the 168th BSB. I am extremely proud to say that they returned without any major accidents or serious injuries. ... A job well done. "The command team of Lt. Col. (Todd) Heussner and Command Sgt. Maj. (Miguel) Rivera left with the battalion for Iraq and brought all the soldiers home.
The Oklahoman: After Iraq deployment, focus is on family again (7 Oct 08)
By Ron Jackson
FORT SILL - A lot has changed for Sgt. 1st Class Kenric Brooks and his wife, Staff Sgt. Eleanor Brooks, during their 15-month deployment together in Iraq. Most of that change occurred in the mind, where a war front redefined their perspective on their military careers, each other, and family. All trails lead back to the love of their two boys in Georgia: Joshua, 9, and Kenric Jr., 6. The family will reunite in November. "I can't wait to see the boys," Kenric Brooks said after the arrival of the 168th Brigade Support Battalion's remaining troops Monday at the Goldner Physical Fitness Center. Kenric and Eleanor Brooks landed Saturday in Comanche County aboard separate flights, ending a journey that began in summer 2007. "I've missed them," Brooks, 31, said of his boys. "My whole point in life has been to take care of them, and even though I've been gone, that's what I've been doing." For Eleanor Brooks, her time in Baghdad only intensified her love for family. She and Kenric have already filed transfer requests to Fort Gordon in Augusta, Ga. "If I were faced with orders to deploy again, I've already decided it would be time to call it quits and remain with the boys," said Eleanor Brooks, 30, who has logged 11 years service in the U.S. Army. During the past 34 months, Eleanor Brooks has served two tours and 27 months in a war zone. Kenric Brooks wrote a book during his deployment, inspired by the challenges of team-building while experiencing war-time pressures. He served in many different capacities but said none was more rewarding than as an adviser to the Iraqi army during the final four months in Baghdad.
Lawton Constitution: Sill soldiers arrive home after serving tour in Iraq (5 Oct 08)
By Mitch Meador
Excitement was in the air - literally - as families waited on the Polo Field for their Fort Sill soldiers to arrive Saturday. The plane bearing some 180 soldiers of the 15th Transportation Company and the 168th Brigade Support Battalion (BSB) homeward flew low over Sill's training side and went directly over the Polo Field pavilion. The crowd roared. Lasandra Begay of Pinedale, N.M., was one of eight adults and five children who loaded into two vehicles Thursday morning to make a nearly 700-mile trip to Lawton. They were all from the Gallup-Pinedale area, and they came to see a wife and husband who deployed together with the 168th BSB, Lucinda Lewis and Andra Boyd. When they left in July 2007, their son, Dakari Boyd, was one year and two months old. "We all have been taking care of him," said Begay, including herself, her parents, Leonard and Julia Begay, and another aunt and uncle, Leona and Frank Begay, along with the rest of Lewis's extended family and Andra Boyd's parents in Tulsa.
NewsOK.com Blog: Oklahoma Troops; News and Info on Oklahoma in the Military