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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Guardsmen Return Home

Monday, November 26, 2001

After recently returning from serving overseas in Saudi Arabia, Pierson Mayor Max Dunnington imparted words of patriotism at the Veteran's Day assembly held at the Kingsley-Pierson Middle School.

"By definition, patriotism is the love for or devotion to one's country. That love and devotion comes at various levels and is expressed differently by all Americans," said Mayor Dunnington.

"You don't have to agree with everything about your country to be patriotic and patriotism doesn't require fighting to be patriotic."

Indeed many area residents celebrated Veterans Day and Thanksgiving Day by expressing a wide array of opinions on how the U.S. should handle the current conflict in Afghanistan.

Mayor Dunnington went on to describe those who have fought in the past and continue to fight in the future for our country and the freedoms we hold dear.

"This Veteran's Day, we not only pay tribute to those in the past, we also pay tribute to the many who are fighting today against the ongoing acts of terrorism that have been inflicted upon our country."

"Not all of these new veterans will wear a military uniform. These new veterans will include all of us: firemen, policemen, nurses, politicians, scientists, and young people. You are all going to have a part in this fight against terrorism."

Max Dunnington along with Randy Eldridge of Kingsley left for Saudi Arabia with the 185th out of Sioux City on October 8th and returned on October 22nd.

Mayor Dunnington worked as a jet mechanic and Randy Eldridge worked as a weapons loader.

"People would not believe how good we have it over here," said Eldridge. "Over there, all you can see for miles and miles is sand. It's the most desolate place I've ever seen."

Both guardsmen were assigned to the Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia.

"For the first week we worked in twelve hour shifts, working on maintenance problems with F16's," said Dunnington. "It was the cold season for that region so the temps were only around 110 degrees. Usually it's around 140 degrees."

Randy Eldridge worked the night shift. "I'm a crew chief on a load crew that puts missiles on the aircraft." He has been a guardsman for 18 years. "Because there's an eight hour difference between here and there, working the night shift wasn't as tough of an adjustment."

All units were on a Delta alert so both men stayed close to the base. "Delta is where you lock everything down and you're not allowed to go anywhere," said Eldridge. "We lived in expandables, which are like an accordion building that you can pull apart. The ends were like metal and the sides were like a tent."

Both men were happy to return home safely and were pleased with the welcoming greetings they received.

"People said they were glad to see us back safely when we came home," said Eldridge. "They are showing the patriotism now that they should have shown for years instead of all that flag burning stuff."

Mayor Dunnington stated his joy at being home in the concluding comments in his Veteran's Day speech.

"During my tour of duty with the Military, I have had the chance to set foot in many foreign countries. Each time I have returned home to the United States, it made me realize all the things that we have in this country; things that I had taken for granted or just had never gave much though to, until I didn't have them anymore.

Take some time and think about what it would be like if you didn't have these rights and freedoms. You are all heroes and patriots. Be proud of your parents, be proud of your teachers and be proud to be an American."

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