HAZARD — Soldiers with the Kentucky National Guard, 207th Horizontal Construction Company, were deployed from Hazard to the Middle East last week for a year-long mission. They did not go quietly, however. As it turns out, their hometown would not let them.
On Dec. 15, an area-wide sendoff was organized to let the soldiers know how much their friends and neighbors support them, appreciate them and will miss them. The soldiers shared goodbyes with loved ones at the National Guard’s Armory Post in Hazard, before boarding busses and heading through town as part of a motorcade, led by firetrucks and police.
“So hard to believe at this time 19 years ago I was just starting to have labor pains. Now, here we are years later saying I love you, be safe and come home,” Deborah Smith said of her son, Robert Smith, who was deployed on his nineteenth birthday, “May God bless you, son, and walk with you on this journey. We love you and I hope you know just how proud I am of you and the man you are becoming.”
While some said goodbye, for now, to their children, others shared the same sentiment for their spouses and parents.
“I love my husband,” Jamie Combs said of her husband, Chris Combs, “I believe in him, and I am proud of his accomplishments.”
As it turned out, more than just family members were proud of the soldiers representing Southeastern Kentucky through the 207th. The entire region joined together in a display of pride.
As the motorcade ventured down Main Street in Hazard, a multitude of well-wishers, including leaders from the Courthouse and City Hall, along with business owners, civic groups and members of the general public, waved flags and cheered as the soldiers passed. The crowd lined both sides of Main Street and cheered with as much fervor as many other towns would reserve for busses filled with Hollywood stars.
But the stars of the show in our town did not capture the crowd’s heart through the silver screen. Instead, they captivated the crowd with their bravery, and the display of thanks was not limited to only Hazard. After the motorcade traveled through Hazard, it ventured on up Hwy. 15, until it reached the Perry and Breathitt line, where Breathitt County first responders took the lead to guide the soldiers on through Jackson.
Such a uniform reaction from an entire populous might seem unusual in some parts of the country, but not here, where last month, 8 bridges and roadways were designated to be named in honor of local veterans. Here, we show pride and thanks to our nation’s true heroes, and as was proven on Dec. 15, so many of America’s true heroes come from right here in our tiny town.
Sam Neace can be reached at 606-629-3243 or on Twitter @HazardHerald.