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Iraq vet featured Veterans Day speaker
American Legion hosts public observance Saturday
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U.S. Navy veteran Bob Marsh, left, and the entire house at the Emma Kelly Theater join in on singing "God Bless America" during the 2017 Veterans Day Observance at the Averitt Center for the Arts. - photo by By SCOTT BRYANT/staff

Robert “Bobby” Babot, who served 37 years with the Army National Guard including an eventful deployment to Iraq, will bring personal experience to his remarks for the 2018 Bulloch County Veterans Day observance, Saturday at the Emma Kelly Theater.

Music by Jack Kindig and the Music Messengers will open the event at 10:30 a.m. The program featuring Babot and other presenters starts at 11 a.m. in the theater at the Averitt Center for the Arts. American Legion Dexter Allen Post 90 hosts the event with support from sponsor businesses.

Babot, originally from Savannah, joined the National Guard in 1977 and served as a traditional, or part-time, Guardsman until 1985. After going full-time that year, he served as an active-duty National Guard soldier until he retired as a master sergeant in 2014. For most of that time, he was assigned to what was then the 648th Engineer Battalion and helped maintain operations at the Statesboro Armory.

Along with others from the battalion including his son Bryan, Bobby Babot deployed to Iraq for 12 months during combat operations in 2005-06. For the first six months he was in charge of a transition team that trained Iraqi soldiers, including those who provided security for Iraq’s first democratic election. For the latter half of his mission he managed convoys providing supplies.

“That was a pretty interesting time,” Babot said of the work training Iraqi troops. “I’ll have some funny stories to share and some poignant moments that I had while I was there. It was very enlightening. It really exposed me to the culture, and I had the opportunity to relate with Iraqi soldiers and get to learn about how they saw life and how they fought.”

But the 2005-06 deployment was far from a simple support mission. Several soldiers from the area National Guard brigade lost their lives. Babot knew all of them personally, and so also brings that depth of wartime experience to Veterans Day.

“The bottom line about my talk will be, it’s a matter of respect,” he said.

Babot also served four years at the Georgia National Guard headquarters in Atlanta, 2008-2012. He now works for Georgia Southern University as assistant director of parking and transportation for the Statesboro campus.

He and his wife Susan, residents of Statesboro, have two sons, two daughters and five grandchildren. Babot is an active member of both American Legion Dexter Allen Post 90 and the local Veterans of Foreign Wars post.

American Legion Post 90 prefers to hold the Veterans Day observance Nov. 11 in keeping with Veterans Day’s origins from the Armistice Day that ended World War I. However, since Nov. 11 is Sunday this year – church time for many participants – the observance is being held Saturday, said Post 90 Senior Vice Commander Dan Foglio, the event organizer.

Other elements of the service include the posting of the flags by Knights of Columbus from St. Matthew’s Church, words of welcome from American Legion Dexter Allen Post 90 Commander Marvin Grimm and Averitt Center for the Arts Deputy Director Rahn Hutcheson and the National Anthem sung by Air Force veteran James Anderson.

Several other veterans and local officials are scheduled to speak briefly, each about an individual veteran they greatly admire and respect.

Other sponsors include Joiner-Anderson Funeral Home, the Averitt Center, McAlister's Deli, Chick-Fil-A, Vandy’s, Awards South and the Bulloch County Historical Society.