N.C. National Guard soldiers get public homecoming at RBC center
Posted April 11, 2010 6:56 a.m. EDT
Updated April 12, 2010 4:35 p.m. EDT
Raleigh, N.C. — Nearly 4,000 members of the North Carolina National Guard and their families celebrated their return from Iraq in a public ceremony at the RBC Center in Raleigh Sunday afternoon.
The 30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team made history as the first National Guard brigade to deploy twice in the Iraqi war, spokesman Maj. Matthew Handley said. Seven soldiers died, including five from North Carolina.
Smaller ceremonies have been held in soldiers' hometowns, but Sunday's ceremony recognized all of the Clinton-based unit, which also includes troops from West Virginia and Colorado.
The public was invited to attend the ceremony, which began with a concert. RBC Center managers donated the use of the facility and its staff's labor to the N.C. National Guard for the event.
“It feels real good to be home,” 1st Sgt. Douglas Lodge said.
“I’m definitely glad to be back,” Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Mooring said.
Mooring’s family was at the RBC Sunday to welcomed him home.
“It was really hard. I didn't know if I was going to be able to make it. I stayed sick constantly,” wife Lashay Mooring said of waiting for her husband's return.
While in Iraq, Lodge learned his daughter, Chasity, was joining the National Guard.
“I’m very proud. I’m more than outstandingly proud because she gets the opportunity to more or less follow in my footsteps,” Lodge said.
The 30th HBCT began deploying for training in December 2008, arrived in Iraq last April and came home in February.
The unit was stationed in Baghdad and handled the transition as Iraqi forces took over as the primary security force in the capital city. The N.C. National Guard soldiers helped Iraqi forces kill or capture hundreds of insurgents, spokesman Maj. Matthew Handley said.
The 30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team also helped with the reconstruction of Iraq. Farmers serving in the brigade aided local agribusinesses.
On June 29, 2009, the last day of regular U.S. combat operations in Iraqi cities, an improvised explosive device killed four soldiers – the N.C. National Guard's largest single combat loss since World War II, according to Handley.
Killed were Sgt. Roger L. Adams Jr., 36, Spc. Robert L. Bittiker, 39, both of Jacksonville; Sgt. Juan C. Baldeosingh, 30, of Newport, and Sgt. 1st Class Edward C. Kramer, 39, of Wilmington.
On May 21, 2009, 1st Lt. Leevi K. Barnard, 28, of Mount Airy, was killed by a roadside bomb while on patrol. Maj. Jason George, 38, of Tehachapi, Calif., and Sgt. Paul Brooks, 34, of Joplin, Mo., were killed in the same explosion.
Twenty-nine soldiers were injured throughout the deployment.