Community turns out to welcome home the troops

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 9, 2003

VIDALIA, La. &045; They came from Concordia Parish, from throughout Louisiana, and even from Natchez.

Members of the 1086th came home early Tuesday afternoon after being deployed for Operation Iraqi Freedom since February, making their way down U.S. 84 through Concordia Parish to the Vidalia Armory.

Some of those who lined Carter Street in Vidalia with flags and signs &045; in addition to well-wishers in Ferriday and other parish towns &045; knew members of the 1086th personally.

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&uot;They represent us all,&uot; said Billy Smart, who worked with 1086th soldiers Ben Tucker and Marcus Paul at International Paper’s Natchez mill. &uot;We’ve been with them in prayer all this time.&uot;

&uot;We have some friends of the family who are in it,&uot; said Debby Evans of Vidalia, who parked near the Pizza Hut to be one of the first in Vidalia to welcome them home.

But more than that, she said, &uot;this is our community. We love them and want to show them we’re proud of them.&uot;

Beside her in their vehicle was Evans’ daughter, Jennifer Evans, who in turn held her 4-month-old son, Ethan.

&uot;We’ve even got him his own flag&uot; to wave, said Debby Evans, holding up a tiny American flag.

Jennifer Evans said she showed up to welcome the unit home because her own boyfriend, Sgt. Toby MacLeod, is still serving in Iraq.

&uot;I feel like I can kind of relate to what (the families) are going through,&uot; she said. &uot;A lot of these people are someone’s girlfriend, or some have sons who are over there.&uot;

Some have National Guard soldiers of their own still serving in Iraq as well.

Teresa Copeland, who stood a few cars down with a large flag, is among that number, since her son, Paul Copeland, is with the Jena-based 1087 Transportation Company.

&uot;And I came out to support them,&uot; Copeland said, referring to the 1086th.

&uot;They represent us all,&uot; said Billy Smart

Others just lined the street to show their support, like Lisa Landers of Vidalia, who came to support Copeland and brought her children: Ryan, 14; Angela, 13; Leah, 8; and Garrett, 6.

&uot;Don’t forget,&uot; Landers said, &uot;we still have people over there.&uot;