LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Arkansas National Guard) -- The Arkansas National Guard's 39th Infantry Brigade Combat Team will host a 10-year reunion here March 22, 2014, for the Veterans of its 2004 deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom II.
The event will take place at the 39th Brigade Headquarters – the Brig. Gen. Earl T. Ricks National Guard Armory – located at 4700 West 8th Street in Little Rock. Gates open at 10 a.m., with a brief program kicking off at 11 a.m. The program includes a video presentation documenting the deployment; comments by the adjutant general, Maj. Gen. William Wofford, and a remembrance of the Fallen. The event is scheduled to continue until 5 p.m., allowing Soldiers the opportunity to just mingle and talk.
"For 18-months, these 4,200 Soldiers fought together, laughed together and cried together. Together they endured the most challenging deployment our state has seen in recent history," said Major Chris Heathscott, former public affairs officer for the brigade's deployment. "Our intent with this reunion is to bring these Soldiers back together to remember and honor their service and sacrifice, while also providing the opportunity to talk about shared experiences and hopefully help us all continue to heal together."
The brigade originally mobilized October 12, 2003, and later deployed to Iraq throughout the month of March 2004. Based in Baghdad and Taji, the Soldiers spent the next 12 months tasked with responsibility over the largest area assigned to any brigade in Iraq at the time.
During the deployment, the 39th trained hundreds of Soldiers in the Iraqi National Guard; conducted countless mounted and dismounted patrols through some of Iraq's most hostile streets; located and destroyed over two-and-a-half tons of illegal weapons; secured the country's first successful democratic elections since 1944; and conducted a vast amount of civil affairs missions to help improve the country's sewer, water, electricity, academic, and trash issues. This was all accomplished while working to identify, locate, detain or destroy enemy insurgents hidden among the civilian populous.
Four Bowie Team Soldiers earned the Silver Star and more than 30 others earned the Bronze Star for valor, while another 300 Bowie Team Soldiers earned the Purple Heart for wounds received in combat. A total of 33 Soldiers lost their life in service to the nation during the deployment. Sixteen of those Soldiers were from Arkansas, while the rest were from various states serving under the 39th brigade's command.
"During this deployment we pledged to never forget our Fallen Soldiers. This is just one small way in which we are living up to that pledge – taking the time to honor their memories and the sacrifice they gave in service to the nation," said Heathscott. "Nothing we do can take away the pain of that loss and anything we do is trivial in comparison to their sacrifice, but we owe it to those Soldiers, their families and to ourselves to keep their memories alive."