The eagle has landed, troops return home

Published 6:51 am Monday, April 11, 2005

By By Lee Weyhrich
For over two centuries the two most powerful symbols of American freedom have been the returning soldier and the bald eagle.
West End Baptist Church in Atmore has been lucky enough to see both in the past few months.
Two members of the 711th Signal Battalion, Randy Johnson and Tim Snyder, returned to the West End church community from Iraq and a bald eagle took up residence near the church at the same time.
"One of the boys came back around January 29 and the other got back March 19, the eagle was first spotted somewhere around that time," Rev. Woody Allison, the church's minister said. "It was somewhere around the time the last one got back that the eagle showed up."
Allison took the eagle to be a sign.
"I thought it was quite odd the boys just came back from Iraq and the eagle showed up," Allison said. "The eagle is the symbol of freedom and it was just ironic that it happened like that. The boys went over there for a reason and that reason was accomplished and I just think it's strange. The eagle appearing was like God's answer to our prayers."
Eagles are uncommon in Alabama and most eagles in Alabama are found in more mountainous regions of the state.
"I've talked to several people who have lived here for years and they've never seen an eagle in this area before," Allison said.
Tim Snyder, one of the returning troops described the eagle sightings as not just a sign, but a blessing.
"It's kind of ironic," Snyder said. "The lord has blessed me in so many ways I can't express it; more and more everyday. This is just another one of his blessings on me."
Snyder was among the last to return home from the war, arriving less than a month ago.
"The first thing I wanted to do was get a home-cooked meal," Snyder said. "I just wanted to be home some. The young people in Atmore talk about wanting to leave town as soon as they can. Shoot, I just wanted to get back."
Snyder said the church and the community did everything they could for troops in Iraq.
"I really appreciate everything the church has done for me while I was gone. Words can not express how I feel about what I've been given by the church and the whole city of Atmore. I just really appreciate what everyone has done."
Last Sunday the church held a barbecue for their two returned soldiers.
"On the church's anniversary, which is the second Sunday in December, we have a cookout for the church," Allison said. "They were in Iraq and missed all the activities for 14 months, so we decided when they got back we'd hold a barbecue for them."
While their soldiers were gone the church members made every effort to remember them in their prayers.
"We had a special prayer for them the first Sunday of each month where people could come and pray and come and go as they pleased," Allison said. "For 14 months we did that."
Snyder knew his church loved him throughout his time in Iraq and the barbecue was just another affirmation.
"Well I think it was wonderful," Snyder said. "The church really went all out for us while we were gone. They showed a lot of appreciation. They sent a lot of packages, a lot of cards and all. You could tell they really cared."
For Snyder the church is an extension of his family.
"I've gone there ever since I was a little baby," Snyder said. "I used to crawl under the pews on the floor. When Bro. Woody was preaching I would crawl a few pews up and poke my head out and look at him. I grew up here. It's like my family.
The return of the two "boys" and the appearance of the eagle are an affirmation to the power of prayer.
"I know that God heard our prayers and answered them," Allison said. "I would encourage everyone to pray for our troops. They're over there for our benefit that we might retain the freedom we have."
Randy Johnson, a state trooper working in Selma for the week, was unavailable for comment.

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