Region prepares troop send-offs
LUVERNE -- More than 1,200 people are expected to attend a military parade and send-off for soldiers in the B Battery of the 125th Field Artillery Sunday in Fairmont. The unit consists of soldiers serving in the Fairmont and Jackson National Guard.
At the same time, organizers in Rock County are planning for a military parade on Memorial Day, May 30, in Luverne, for soldiers in the A Battery of the 125th, which includes soldiers serving in the Luverne-Pipestone National Guard.
The two batteries include more than 260 soldiers, many living in southwest Minnesota, who will be deployed to Kuwait sometime this summer.
Battery A Captain Brian Douty, Pipestone, said the soldiers from Pipestone-Luverne and Jackson-Fairmont will depart for Camp Ripley on Sunday, where they will complete all of their necessary paperwork prior to deployment. They will return to southwest Minnesota on May 29.
"We're home for four days and then we'll depart for Fort McCoy, Wis., on June 2," said Douty. It's uncertain how long they will be at Fort McCoy, but it is estimated to be 45 to 60 days before they are sent overseas.
While stationed near Kuwait, Douty said the soldiers will provide convoy security, base defense and general security in the area around Kuwait and Iraq.
The estimated one-year deployment means the soldiers should return home in May 2012.
Soldiers serving in the B Battery will march from the Five Lakes Center mall to the National Guard Armory in Fairmont beginning at noon Sunday.
The military parade will be led by members of the American Legion and VFW and will also include the Jackson County Central drum corps, the Fairmont High School band and fire trucks representing each of the towns in Martin and Jackson counties.
They will be followed by the 130 soldiers of Battery B in a march down the nearly two-mile route, according to Ken Craig, one of the event organizers.
"We're encouraging people to wear red and line up along the parade route," added Bob Wallace, president of the Fairmont Area Chamber of Commerce. Red "Support our Troops" T-shirts have been sold in recent weeks for the parade.
When the soldiers arrive at the Armory, they will be transported to the arena on the Martin County Fairgrounds for a pork patty luncheon with their families. They will then board buses to depart for Camp Ripley.
When the soldiers return to Fairmont May 29, the Martin County Beyond the Yellow Ribbon campaign will host several activities for the families of the deploying soldiers, according to campaign member Tamara Plumhoff.
Events begin on May 30, with a memorial parade at 10 a.m., followed by a picnic at the Red Rock Center for the Arts, 222 E. Blue Earth Ave., Fairmont. All military personnel, active and retired, are welcome to attend with a spouse for free, while the general public may purchase a ticket at the center the day of the meal.
Coinciding with the Memorial Day events in Fairmont will be train rides, a petting zoo and face painting for the children, and an Honor Program featuring Robert and Patty Posivio of Sherburn as guest speakers. The Posivios lost their son, Daniel, to a car crash while he was home on leave from the Navy. A few years later, son Robby was killed in Iraq.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, activities are planned for families of the deploying soldiers, as those who live outside the 50-mile radius of Fairmont are required to stay in the community. The events include pontoon tours of the Fairmont lakes by the Let's Go Fishing program and early bird specials at Rose Lake Golf Course. Tuesday evening will include bowling, pizza and bars for the military families at Bowlmor Lanes, while Wednesday night will be a Red Bull Rodeo at the Fairmont Holiday Inn, featuring a mechanical bull, calf roping for the kids and a chuck wagon buffet, followed by DJ music.
"We try to create activities we can do so the time is more positive than just dreading when (the soldiers) leave," said Plumhoff.
Peggy Adams, chair of the Rock County Citizens Committee that is organizing the send-off for the Luverne-Pipestone National Guard troops, said there will be a military parade at 12:30 p.m. May 30. The nearly 135 soldiers in the A Battery will march from the Luverne National Guard Armory to the Luverne Elementary commons. The public is invited and encouraged to line the streets and provide a proper send-off.
The troops will be met by the Patriot Guard and members of the VFW at the school, and will then march into the gymnasium for a 1 p.m. program that will include performances by the Luverne High School band, and several speakers to include Capt. Douty, Luverne VFW Commander Bill Martin, Luverne Mayor Pat Baustian, Rep. Joe Schomaker, and Rep. Tim Walz. District 22 Sen. Doug Magnus will attend after presenting the Memorial Day program in Pipestone.
Lt. Col. Troy Soukup, Battalion commander, will issue the order to the soldiers prior to their departure, while a mass presentation of the colors will be conducted by members of the Hardwick, Hills and Luverne American Legions.
Following the event, the Rock County Dairy Association will host an ice cream social, with financial contributions provided by both the Rock County Corn Growers and the Cornerstone Co-op. An estimated 1,000 people are expected to attend.
Adams said the public is invited back to Luverne on June 2, when the soldiers from Pipestone and Luverne will board three buses prior to their departure to Fort McCoy, Wis.
"They will drive down Main Street and Highway 75, and we want people out waving flags to give them a good send-off," Adams said.