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Devoted Families Rewarded

Monday, December 8, 2008

Jackson King, 2 months, is enjoying a moment with Santa to "tell" him what he wants for Christmas. Jackson is the nephew of Staff Sgt. King and Jenny King.
The Indiana Army National Guard, 2-150 Alpha Battery Family Readiness Group presented awards Sunday to individuals for their dedication and support to the families of deployed soldiers.

Members of FRG to receive an award of appreciation were Shelly Boler, Linda Wathen, Dan Wathen, Jessica Whitman, McKenna Carmichael, Judith Smith, Dawn Fox, Jennise Palmer, Mardanna Boler and Heidi Wathen.

Liaisons to FRG, Lt. Russell, Sgt. Baker, Sgt. Walker and Sgt. Coons were also presented an award of appreciation for their assistance and support.

Following the awards, Putnam County Extension Homemakers served a turkey dinner to the entire 2-150 Alpha Battery Unit.

Among them were soldiers who recently returned home from serving in Iraq. Some returned home just before Thanksgiving; others arrived Dec. 1.

Anthony Smith returned home Nov. 26, which was just in time for the Thanksgiving holiday.

"It was great (to be with family for the holiday)", he said.

He has been serving with the National Guard for 15 years. He joined for the college benefits.

"It changed who I am," he said.

Military runs in Anthony Smith's family. His father was a Marine; his brother is a current Marine who returned in September from a tour in Iraq; and his grandfather was a Korean War veteran.

This was Smith's first tour in Iraq and he was gone a total of 11 months. He was in Iraq for nine of those months.

During that time, he missed two of his daughters' birthdays.

His wife, Judith Smith, explained it was rough to have him gone especially with the little one, Cathleen, who is now three years old. Cathleen didn't understand why her father was gone except it was his job.

Every time she heard Anthony's ring tone, it told her Dad was OK.

The family was able to communicate every day, which helped lessen some of the "not-knowing" anxiety Judith Smith felt during her husband's deployment.

The FRG aided in saving Judith's sanity, she admitted. It gave her the opportunity the focus on other soldiers and their families.

Lt. James Anderson's son, Jonathan, 2, and Alexis Wallace, 7, were the recipients of two bicycles raffled by the Indiana Army National Guard, 2-150 Alpha Battery Family Readiness Group.
While Anthony was gone, he wrote an "If I don't make it back" letter to his family and kept it in his computer bag.

"It was one of the hardest letters I ever wrote," he confessed. "I burned it the day before we flew out. It was a good feeling."

Anthony's plans include returning to his job at Heartland Automotive, where he has worked for three years.

In the spring, he will take the three girls, Cathleen, Jordan and Kaitlyn, to an amusement park through Operation Reconnect.

"It's (just) good to be home," Anthony said.

Among other soldiers delighted to be home, was Spc. Kenneth Boler who returned from his first tour in Iraq Dec. 1. He was deployed more than a year.

Kenneth Boler missed Thanksgiving dinner with his family. He spent the day on a plane.

"It (the meal on the plane) was not good," he said.

His wife, Shelly Boler, said they given one hour together that day, which helped make the holiday easier to endure without him.

"I did not want to miss Christmas," Kenneth Boler stated.

Tiffany Boler, Kenneth's daughter, said, "It was weird to have him gone."

He is her mechanic as well as her father. Tiffany decided to occupy the time by trying to stay strong for her mother and niece, Destinie.

Kenneth's deployment was rough for Destinie. She is "Papaw's" little follower.

If he is out working on a car in the grease, she is in the grease too, family members said.

Kenneth and his family -- like the Smiths -- were able to communicate every day via a Web cam. When he was on a mission, contact was every two days.

A time difference of eight hours made conversations interesting. As his family was sitting down to dinner he was saying, "Good morning."

The temperature difference has made his return interesting. In Iraq during the day, temperatures reach 130 degrees. Kenneth is still adjusting from dust storms to snowfall.

In addition to the soldiers, Santa was there handing out toys to the children.

Several items were raffled including two bicycles donated by Loren Leonard.

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Jackson King is the nephew of Sgt. Chris King, not the son. Jackson is the son of Derek and Victoria King of Mooresville.

-- Posted by Jackielee on Mon, Dec 8, 2008, at 2:08 PM

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