Hail and Farewell
By By Suzanne Digmon Staff Reporter
"God bless Company A 711th Signal Battalion and God bless the United States of America." As Atmore's National Guard gets ready to mobilize, friends, family, elected officials and supportive citizens gathered Saturday morning at the Deployment Ceremony. Hodnette Auditorium was filled to capacity with well wishers and tear-streaked faces.
"It's an emotional day. It's a day we can be proud," Mayor Howard Shell said in his welcome. Along with Mayor Shell, all five city councilmen were in attendance. Shell said from now on, city hall would be part of Company A's headquarters.
Guests of the deployment ceremony included Congressman Jo Bonner, 1st Congressional District, Major General Mark Bowen, Adjutant General Alabama National Guard, Brigadier General Dallas W. Fanning, Commander, 142nd Signal Brigade, Colonel Brooks Hodges, Deputy Commander, 142nd Signal Brigade, Lieutenant Colonel Scott Gedling, Commander, 711th Signal Battalion, Command Sergeant Major Russell Quinn, 142nd Signal Brigade Command, Command Sergeant Major Ray Green, 711th Signal Battalion.
Congressman Jo Bonner said, "We must never forget the cost of freedom and liberty….Men and women of the 711th, we salute you."
The ceremony included the posting of colors by Escambia County High School's NJROTC and the national anthem sung by Rev. Willie Hawthorne. Councilman John Watkins, Mayor Pro-Tem, led the Pledge of Allegiance and Chaplain Chris Summers, Chaplain Dept. of Corrections, gave the invocation.
Col. Herb Lockett (ret.) gave a powerful speech, followed by a moving speech by Col. Charles Lowery (ret.). Commander Levan Martin finished his comments to the 711th Signal Battalion with, "May God bless you and yours always."
"To Atmore, thank you for your overwhelming support. We will make you proud," Captain Paul West, Commander of Company A 711th Signal Battalion, said to the hundreds of citizens seated in Hodnette Auditorium. "To you, the men and women of Alpha Company, you are the best."
Lana Langford led the crowd singing "God Bless America". Emotions ran high and tears fell from many faces as Company A 711th Signal Battalion was called to attention. Mayor Shell said to the troops as the ceremony came to a close, "We're behind you 100%."