Those who put up yellow ribbons and flags along the route welcoming home Cambridge Springs-based National Guard Stryker troops are being asked to leave them up through Sept. 25. That’s the date of a welcoming ceremony being organized to honor the troops now that they are home.
COOL 101.7 FM and The Meadville Tribune collaborated to present a live broadcast as more Cambridge Springs-based National Guard Stryker troops came home Monday afternoon.
The broadcast included several interviews, including one with the 1st Battalion, 112th Infantry executive officer, Maj. Tim Foor.
Foor stressed how much the welcome home meant to the unit. In his eyes and through his voice, you could tell that the effort the community showed touched the soldiers more than we can fully appreciate.
A slew of veterans’ organizations were represented at each of the homecomings for Stryker troops at the Cambridge Springs Readiness Center.
Among them were two individuals who may play a key role for newly returned troops and their families seeking access to health care and other veterans benefits.
On Saturday, Jim Miller, manager of the Operation Enduring Freedom and Opera-tion Iraqi Freedom Program at the Erie Veterans Administra-tion Medical Center, was on hand as the soldiers returned.
Attending Monday was Rich Moore, a Vietnam-era veteran who is staff assistant to the director for special programs at the Erie medical center.
Both are involved in programs specifically designed to meet the needs of veterans of Iraq and Afganistan.
Also on hand was Phil Davis, a charter member of the Meadville-based Veterans of the Vietnam War Inc. Jack Greer Memorial Post 52. Davis and other post members have been active spreading the word that they stand ready to help meet Iraq and Afghanstan veterans’ needs.
One of the three buses bringing the troops home Monday apparently was pulled over by the Pennsylv-ania State Police for speeding. The third bus apparently had become separated from the other two after passing through a construction zone, according to Sgt. Davina Knight, a personnel staffer with the 1st Battalion, 112th Infantry of the 56th Stryker Brigade at Cambridge Springs. Knight’s husband, Justin, was aboard the bus, she said. The driver of the third bus sped up to catch up with the other two buses and was pulled over by police. The bus was released without a ticket being issued, she said.
The call for cookies to welcome home the troops drew an overwhelming response — more than 1,000 dozen cookies.
Delores Hale, one of those involved in the welcoming for the troops, estimated some 15,000 cookies were donated. Donations were given from individuals, churches and civic organizations.
Leftover cookies not taken by members of the National Guard will be turned over to Project Support Our Troops for distribution to those serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and other locations, Hale said.
Jordan Anderson, 10, son of Sgt. 1st Class Tom Anderson, has had a special job to do with the troops returning home. He has operated the siren on one of the Cambridge Springs Volunteer Fire Department’s trucks that have led troops back to the Pennsylvania National Guard’s Readiness Center in Cambridge Springs including Monday to welcome his dad home.
Though not a member, elder Anderson has been active with the Cambridge Springs Volunteer Fire Department the past few years, said Chief Chris French of Cambridge Springs Volunteer Fire Department.
“He helps up with our fund-raising,” said French. “He helps us with our carnival. He’s like part of our family. He’s someone you can always count on.”
A Western New York and Pennsylvania Railroad engine bedecked with yellow bows awaited the return of the troops on the other side of town.
Melanie Dunbar and Gus, 5, a Chow-golden retriever mix so cute that Chowdens (we just made that up) may be the next Labradoodles, and Yvonne Eaton-Stull and Maggie, 7, a yellow lab, came down from Erie to keep families company while they wait.
They’re all certified participants in the HOPE Animal-Assisted Crisis Response program. “This is wonderful,” Eaton-Stull said. “Usually we get called out for crises — Maggie spent time at Virginia Tech after the shootings in 2007 — but this is a celebration and we’re loving it.”
George Donaldson, a disabled American veteran, helped Cambridge Springs Elementary students mail goodies to the troops throughout their deployment.
Monday, he was on hand to greet his son, Maj. Bob Donaldson, who served as an operations officer. During the deployment, George never felt alone. “A lot of the fathers of kids at Cambridge Springs Elementary were in Iraq — and husbands of teachers were there, too,” he said.