Homecoming ceremonies are set in Fairfield, Burlington, Ottumwa, Mount Pleasant and Keokuk tomorrow (Saturday) for some 500 soldiers from the 224th Engineer Battalion of the Iowa National Guard. Guard spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Greg Hapgood, says the unit was mobilized in October of 2004 and sent to Iraq in January of this year.
He says one of their primary missions was to go find improvised explosives devices and to make them not a threat any more. He says they also provided security for a variety of missions.
Hapgood says the 224th had a dangerous job that took a toll. He says in the year since they’ve been deployed, they lost four soldiers who were killed in action and had more than 30 that were wounded in combat. Hapgood says the unit “did so many things and did them so well.” Hapgood says the Iowa unit gained the recognition of their peers while in Iraq.
He says their main job was to support the Second Marine Division. Hapgood says the Second Marine Division was so impressed that they made the Iowans honorary members and awarded them their combat patch — something he says is unprecedented.
Hapgood says each of the events begins at 11 A.M. He says the ceremonies are open to the public. The ceremony in Fairfield is at the high school gym, in Burlington its at Southeastern Community College, in Ottumwa at the Indian Hills Community College, in Mount Pleasant at the student activities center at Iowa Wesleyan College and in Keokuk at the high school.