Local combat vets to get escort as unit returns to local armory

HERMITAGE, Pa. -- Pennsylvania National Guard soldiers who saw combat during the last year in Iraq will be welcomed home Thursday with an official escort across the width of the state.
Sgt. Harold Barr, recruiting and retention officer at the Pennsylvania Army National Guard, said A Battery, First Battalion of the 107th Field Artillery from Hermitage, will be leaving Fort Dix, N.J., and arrive sometime between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. Thursday. Local police and fire departments will escort them up Pa. Route 18 as they arrive by commercial bus on their way to the armory on North Hermitage Road.
He said the public is encouraged to greet the soldiers along the arrival route, and parking will be available at Hickory High School, next door to the armory. Businesses on Pa. Route 18 have been encouraged to participate in the welcome, he said.
No program is scheduled at the armory, only a brief welcome and a prayer, Barr said. However, the armory will be open all day if anyone wants to place welcome signs there, he said.
Barr said Mercer County Sheriff William Romine coordinated a police escort all the way through Pennsylvania for the returning soldiers.
The group was deployed Dec. 18, 2003, and has been in Iraq since Feb. 6, 2004, serving as a military police unit. Several were wounded in encounters with Iraqi insurgents during their tour of duty, including two hurt when their humvee was ambushed while on patrol May 21.
Three others received Purple Hearts for injuries sustained in fighting near Mosul in June.

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