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National Guard vets to hold first-time reunion Saturday at Statesboro Armory
Back in March 2009, Lt. Col. Tom Bright, left, of the Georgia National Guard 48th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, which was stationed at the Statesboro Armory at the time, is shown with Staff Sgt. Kevin Hoffman as the unit was preparing for training and
Back in March 2009, Lt. Col. Tom Bright, left, of the Georgia National Guard 48th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, which was stationed at the Statesboro Armory at the time, is shown with Staff Sgt. Kevin Hoffman as the unit was preparing for training and deployment to Afghanistan. A reunion of all troops deployed from the Statesboro Armory to Iraq and Afghanistan is planned for Saturday. - photo by By SCOTT BRYANT/staff

Georgia Army National Guard veterans from units that deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan out of the Statesboro Armory during the past two decades plan to gather there this Saturday, Sept. 18, 1-5 p.m. for a first-time reunion.

“It’s the first one we’ve ever had since we all went to Iraq back in ’05,” said retired Lt. Col. John “Opie” Davis, who was a major with the battalion at that time and later served as battalion commander circa 2010-2013.

It was the 648th Engineer Battalion that deployed to Iraq in 2005, but the unit headquartered at the armory was later re-designated as the 48th Brigade Special Troops Battalion and is now the 177th Brigade Engineer Battalion. Throughout the period, the unit’s soldiers have been combat engineers, whose duties in Iraq included counter-IED work such as looking for roadside bombs.

The reunion is open to all who served in the units at any time, whether or not the individual soldiers were actually deployed.

“It’s really just a meet and greet to catch up with old friendships and camaraderie,” Davis said.

As of Tuesday, he was expecting a few more than 100 people. A food truck with items such as hotdogs will be available, but the organizers have not planned a meal as such.

About seven soldiers from the battalion lost their lives in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and their spouses have also been invited to the reunion. Davis plans to speak a few words of remembrance, with a bugler asked to play Taps.

He has asked the current battalion commander, Lt. Col. Dan Chicola, and an earlier commander, Col. Bob Baldwin, also to offer some remarks during the reunion. But the event will be very informal, with casual attire and not uniforms expected, Davis said.

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