Families hope for 155th holiday homecoming

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Natchez &8212; Rhonda Rich&8217;s husband won&8217;t be among the lucky few associated with the 155th who arrive back in the United States today, but she is hoping for a Christmas reunion.

About 100 soldiers from the 155th Brigade Combat Team are expected back in Mississippi today, according to the National Guard. None of the soldiers from Natchez are expected to return today.

The rest of the 3,500 Mississippi soldiers will likely arrive in waves through the middle of next month.

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&8220;The members of the 155th BCT not only provided professional combat power to the multinational forces in Iraq, but developed and sustained a high level of stability within their area of responsibility by establishing agricultural cooperatives, building and supplying schools, conducting engineering work on Iraqi infrastructure and providing medical support to the local population,&8221; Maj. Gen. Harold A. Cross, adjutant general of Mississippi, told The Associated Press.

The majority of those returning this week are members of the 114th Field Artillery based in Starkville.

Rich said she is hoping her husband and other Natchez members of the 155th will be home just before Christmas.

But she is still happy about today&8217;s returnees.

&8220;What excites me about it is they&8217;re starting to come home,&8221; she said.

The 155th Family Readiness Group is planning a major celebration in Natchez for Jan. 21.

Anyone interested in donating to the homecoming celebration can give to a fund at Britton & Koontz First National Bank.

The soldiers returning today will land at an Air Guard base in Gulfport before heading to Camp Shelby near Hattiesburg.

Family members are encouraged to meet the soldiers at Camp Shelby rather than in Gulfport, National Guard officials said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.