BLOOMINGTON -- Bloomington, Greencastle and surrounding communities are joining together to welcome home soldiers who were deployed overseas during 2008. The celebration will be held in the Bloomington North High School gymnasium beginning at 2 p.m. Sunday. The event is open to the public, and thousands of small U.S. flags will be handed out free to those attending.
Most of those who willl be honored by the welcome home ceremony include nearly 135 soldiers attached to the second battalion, 150th field artillery of the Indiana National Guard. They were among a group of 4,500 Indiana National Guard troops deployed to Iraq in early 2008 and began arriving back home in groups staggered through late November and early December. The 2-150 "Ruff Ryders" took part in the large welcome home ceremony held inside the Lucas Oil Stadium on Jan. 31. This Sunday's event in Bloomington will include a Freedom Salute ceremony in which Guard members receive individual honors for their service.
"We need to get as many folks from the community there to welcome, cheer and wave flags to let our soldiers know how happy we are to see them and how proud we are of them," said Kevin King, a Bloomington resident who is leading local efforts to welcome home troops.
"They put everything on the line for us. It is the least we can do to honor them. This will be the event we have been waiting for," he said.
In addition to National Guard troops, anyone who served in the military and deployed somewhere in 2008 is encouraged to contact King, attend Sunday's celebration and be recognized.
Sunday's celebration will include words of welcome home from local, state and national elected officials. Local military family support groups will participate, along with command personnel from the Indiana National Guard. Soldiers will receive awards, and some community members will be recognized for their support efforts to soldiers and their families during times of deployment.
There will be special musical performances by local singers, the Bloomington Brass Band and the Indianapolis Fire Department Emerald Pipe and Drum Unit. Many organizations, including the Red Cross and various veterans' service groups, will be on hand and lend their voices to the homecoming.
"One of the great things about this celebration is that it comes from the heart of people right here at home," said King. "All of the money it's taking to put on this ceremony is coming out of people's own pockets. If anyone is interested in chipping in, we can still use more support."