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Community organizing ceremony to welcome home troops from Iraq

LAWRENCEVILLE - Just before Capt. Michael Cannon and his soldiers crossed the globe to enter a war zone, they got a warm send off from their neighbors and friends.

Then, the community stepped in, sending care packages to the troops and lending a helping hand for the families left back home.

Now that the men and women are back, they want the residents of Lawrenceville to know how much they appreciate the support.

And members of the community want those soldiers to know how grateful they are for the sacrifice.

So both are working together to plan a celebration for the entire city of Lawrenceville - a welcome home event for Alpha Company of the Georgia National Guard's 48th Brigade, which is based in the city's National Guard Armory.

"I would like to thank the people or Lawrenceville for supporting us," said Cannon, who wanted to organize a parade so his soldiers can march through the city on their first mandatory drill day since leaving Iraq earlier this summer. "Our families were in great hands while we were gone and that is what allowed us the piece of mind to do our jobs."

Carolyn Buice, who, along with her husband Ron, helped lead the effort to build a Fallen Heroes Memorial in Gwinnett several years ago, said she wanted to throw a party as soon as she heard the soldiers were coming back.

But because of the unit was disbanded from a Georgia fort and not the Lawrenceville armory, the celebration had to wait until all them were back in the area.

The parade is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. next Sunday, July 23. A ceremony will follow at the Fallen Heroes Memorial at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center.

Then, the local post of the Veterans of Foreign Wars has planned a private dinner and entertainment for the soldiers.

"I would like these troops, when they walk through town, to see a sea of yellow ribbons," Buice said. "This is a homecoming celebration. We want these guys to know just how much we appreciate what they've done and the sacrifices they made."

During the ceremony, officials plan to pay tribute to the men from Gwinnett who died in Operation Iraqi Freedom, whose names were added to the memorial in the past year.

"This is a great opportunity for the soldiers to thank the community and for the community to see the soldiers," Cannon said. "I think it's needed on both sides."

Organizers of a welcome back celebration for Alpha Company of the Georgia National Guard's 48th Brigade are looking for help.

Volunteers are needed to make bows and perform other duties, and organizers are also looking for corporate sponsors. For information on how to help, call the Lawrenceville post of the Veterans of Foreign Wars at 770-963-8767.