The Mabee Sports Center at Hannibal-LaGrange University was filled with happy families Sunday afternoon, Aug. 26, as they welcomed home 78 local and area soldiers who have just completed a tour of duty in Qatar.
The 1 p.m. “welcome home” ceremony for these members of the 2175th MP Co. with the Missouri Army National Guard was originally scheduled at Clemens Field, but was relocated because of the rain. Several of the speakers made reference to the soldiers bringing the much-needed rain to Hannibal.
During his welcome to the soldiers, Adjutant General of the Missouri National Guard, Major Gen. Stephen L. Danner, joked, “if I knew you would bring rain, I would have brought you home in May.”
After the ceremony two big “welcome home” posters were presented to SSG Jason Lovercheck of Hannibal by his wife, Nancy, and 4-year-old daughter, Rebekah.
SSG Blake Greeves of Monroe City, Mo., received a special welcome from his niece, Maddix Dowell, 5, also of Monroe City. His poster said, “Welcome home Uncle Dake” which is her name for Greeves.
The MPs returning from Qatar were led into the gymnasium at HGLU by their commander, CPT Shane Spellman, and 1SG Bobby Richards.
One patriotic highlight of the ceremony was the a cappella singing of the National Anthem by Capt. John Nemes of the Marion County Ambulance District.
After being welcomed home to Missouri by state and local officials - including an emotional “God Bless” from Hannibal Mayor Roy Hark - the MP Company carried out a traditional flag ceremony.
This was the return and official presentation of flags that had been given to both the oldest and the youngest members of the deployed unit when they departed for Qatar.
The two flags had been flown in Qatar and were returned to state National Guard leaders. The youngest member of the MPs was PFC Laith Travin and the oldest was SSG David Jones.
During the welcome home ceremony, Lt. Nicholas Schmidt reported the history of the local unit. Among facts he reported were that the National Guard is the oldest of the nation’s armed forces, organized in 1636, and it serves a dual role, both overseas deployment and at home in time of emergencies.
The National Guard in Hannibal was organized in 1896. In 1947 it was reorganized as the 35th Military Police Co. with the 35th Infantry Division. In 1972 it was reorganized as the 2175th MP Co. In 2005 the 2175th was reorganized with headquarters in Hannibal and a detachment in Moberly, Mo.
Recent deployments prior to the 2011 one in Qatar have included serving in Kosovo for nine months in 2001 and 2002, and a tour of duty in Iraq in 2003 and 2004.
Among the 2175th MP Co.’s duties in the United States have been helping in Missouri during the Great Flood of 1993, in 2005 traveling to Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, after Hurricane Katrina, and in 2008 helping in Louisiana after Hurricane Gustav.
This was not the first tour of duty overseas for several of the MPs, and they do not expect it to be the last. Others, however, are completing their military service.
Local MPs expected
at have next
2 years at home
Prior to the ceremonies Sunday, SGT Joshua Barton of New London, Mo., said this group of military police will not be going overseas again for two years.
“In 2014 there will be a deployment to Kosovo, but none of this unit will have to go,” Barton said. “It has at least a couple years’ off.” He had previously served in Kosovo.
In Qatar, Barton said, “My group was a Quick Reaction Force (QRF), a backup for law and order units” providing base security.
Although the base had no attacks during the deployment, Barton said, “we had a few suspicious packages” which were processed and were not dangerous.
Asked how the MPs spent their free time, Barton said they played dodgeball and basketball, and also “our battalion started our own little football league in the fall.”
During their deployment the solders had free Wi-Fi to keep in touch with families at home. Also, each “had two weeks R and R,” Barton said, when they could choose to go home or meet their families somewhere. Or they could remain there and have the extra time added to their income when they returned home.
Also completing his second deployment was SPC Phillip Daughtery of Hannibal. He had previously served in Iraq.
SP4 Steven Byram of Troy, Mo., had served his third deployment, with the previous ones being in Bosnia and Haiti. His wife, Kelly, and 2-year-old daughter, Hope, were excited to see him.
Byram has been in the military for six years and said “I think I’m done” with deployments.
Local soldiers among
400 Mo. Guard
members coming home
The recent deployment of the local MP Company was part of a base security deployment to Qatar in support of Operation Enduring Freedom involving more than 400 Missouri Guardsmen. While deployed, members of the 2175th provided base security at Camp As Sayliyah, near the capitol city of Doha, as well as at a remote site.
In addition to providing military police for a quick reaction force, for roving patrols and maintaining sentry posts, the soldiers participated in additional training in Qatar and in nearby Kuwait.
Those training opportunities included courses in advanced cardiac life support, warrior leadership, antiterrorism, radio communications, Marine Corps martial arts, threat awareness and suicide prevention, just to name a few.
For more information about the Missouri National Guard, please visit www.moguard.com.
See photo gallery for more pictures of the ceremony.