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Soldiers leave on Sunday

Unless something changes Sunday morning, members of the Greenville's Army National Guard unit will not have a tearful, flag-waving farewell as members leave for a larger deployment ceremony in Andalusia.

The City of Greenville, however, is having a dinner on Thursday night for members of the local unit, but it is not open to the public and is by invitation only.

"We don't really have a program and such," said Barbara Philpot, executive assistant to Mayor Dexter McLendon.

"But we knew we wanted to have something for them just the same."

Philpot said the dinner is for members of the unit and their families and it will be held at the First Baptist Family Life Center on Fort Dale Road beginning at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 18.

Any members of the unit who have not received their invitation and would like to attend, should call Philpot at 382-7111 immediately.

Philpot said there are about 40 going overall from the Greenville unit, and approximately 25 live in the Greenville area.

As for Sunday, when they leave, she said nothing has been scheduled.

On Monday, the unit will join the rest of the 117th in a deployment ceremony in Andalusia at the Kiwanis Community Center beginning at

10 a.m.

"This is the public's opportunity to wish our troops good luck and farewell," said Captain Chris Theilacker of the battalion. "This is the official departure ceremony for all the soldiers and their family. We would like for everyone that can to come out and give these guys a good send off."

On tap for the special ceremony - one which has likely never been seen in Andalusia - are several special guests, including Governor Bob Riley, U.S. Representative Terry Everett, Speaker of the House Seth Hammett, and Major General Mark Bowen, Adj. General of the Alabama National Guard.

Also on hand will be the 98th Army Band from Fort Rucker.

"A lot of people are wanting to come out and send these guys off properly," Capt. Theilacker said. "This is a very important time for these soldiers and their families, and a lot of people from across Alabama will be focusing their attention on Andalusia that day."

With the preparation for the departure ceremony, Capt. Theilacker said he, and the troops, are hopeful that area residents will continue to pray for them, and keep them and their duty fresh in their minds.

"Anything people can do is greatly appreciated," he said. "Yellow ribbons, flags, just whatever people can do to show they care and are supporting our troops, mean a lot to the guys."

The men's departure time from Greenville on Sunday is not known at this time.

The Andalusia Star-News contributed to this report.