Friday, June 11, 2004

"Thanks for your bravery and courage in the face of great danger."  

LACEY -- "Thanks for your bravery and courage in the face of great danger."
"We thank you and are praying for your safety."

"We miss you, Daddy."

Those were among the supportive messages residents wrote on a 20-foot banner that the City Council, acting on behalf of the community, presented Thursday to the Army's first Stryker brigade. The Fort Lewis-based unit has been in Iraq since November.

"The soldiers are going to very much appreciate this," said Julie Rounds, wife of Col. Michael Rounds, brigade commander. Also accepting were Maj. Cynthia Glenister, commander of the brigade's rear detachment, and Master Sgt. Stephen Kessler, the detachment's top enlisted soldier.

The banner will arrive in Iraq in several days and will hang in one of the brigade's dining halls, Rounds said.

Organizers of Lacey's Spring Fun Fair, in cooperation with the local Veterans of Foreign Wars post and the local American Red Cross chapter, started the banner-signing effort to show support for their military partner. Lacey is tied to the brigade through Fort Lewis' Community Connections program, in which major units adopt cities to forge partnerships between soldiers and surrounding communities.

"We certainly do appreciate your presence and the relationship we've been able to establish through the years," Mayor Virgil Clarkson told Glenister.

Residents, both young and old, veterans and fellow soldiers signed the banner during the fair in early May.

In all, nearly 450 messages are on the laminated banner. The banner includes Lacey's logo and the insignia of the Stryker brigade.

In big, bold letters, it reads, "Thank you to our soldiers in Iraq."

The City Council also read a proclamation in appreciation of the sacrifices made by both U.S. service members and loved ones left behind.

VFW members held the banner when it was unrolled during the presentation.

"We know what it's like to receive the community support" and I'm sure the soldiers will appreciate this effort, said David Bright, who is the post commander.

Stephanie Reed, a member of the post's women's auxiliary, said her husband, deployed with the brigade, has told her during phone conversations how much the soldiers appreciate messages like this.

"It does keep the hopes up when they receive something from home," she said.

The 3,600 South Sound soldiers of the Stryker brigade, initiated by the Army to fill a gap between its light and heavy fighting forces, are scheduled for a yearlong deployment.

Thirteen soldiers from the unit have died since they arrived in the war-torn nation, according to a Fort Lewis spokesman.

South Sound -The Olympian


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