144th Honored

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Friday is Veterans Day, the day set aside to honor those who've put their lives on the line for our country. It may take years to thank the members of the National Guard's 144th Transportation Company in Marianna. They've been deployed for almost two years.

The 144th Transportation Company in Marianna was honored Thursday for their amazing service and sacrifice.

Over the past 18 months, the unit has been deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and to Mississippi and south Florida to participate in Hurricane Wilma and Katrina recovery efforts.

The soldiers agree it's been hectic, but the support from the community has made it a worthwhile experience especially this past Christmas when it seems as if the gift boxes from home wouldn't stop coming.

SGT Merchant with the 144th Transportation County says, "I can remember last Christmas we had boxes and boxes of things to open. I gotta tell you. I can't eat another slim Jim guys."

But the mood was more serious when key note speaker Jorge Garcia shared his story of freedom. He left his parents behind in Cuba when he was just 13 years old. His family could only get one Visa to come to the United States, and he gave Garcia the opportunity.

Jorge Garcia says, "These people in the 144th and all the men and women in the armed forces, I thank you cause freedom means a lot more to me than a lot of other people. I will never take it for granted. I don't expect nobody to ever take it for granted. It takes, like I said, a lot of scarified a lot of pain and a lot of tears."

People First Community Bank sponsored the event, capped off by the unveiling of a new bronze plaque. It pays tribute to those who stand guard, and will serve as a lasting monument on the banks property.

The Veterans Day festivities continue Friday in Marianna with an 11 o'clock Veterans Day parade.