875th Honored At Defenders Of Freedom Ceremony

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT)-Soldier after soldier joined together to celebrate one another's sacrifice Sunday at Arkansas State's Convocation Center.

"This is a great day this is a day we've been looking forward to for about 18 months," said Col. Patricia Anslow, who's retiring her leadership post with the 875th.

The handshaking went on and on as each serviceman and woman received honorary plaques thanking them for their military service.

For Colonel Anslow, it's an especially important day as she reflects on her leadership role within the 875th Engineer Batallion and the sacrifice they've all made.

"They have had tremendous successes in Iraq," she said. "Today is their day. It's a chance to honor them."

Honoring these brave men and women is something the Army National Guard has made a priority.

"It's an opportunity to recognize those soldiers that serve in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Noble Eagle," said Capt. Chris Heathscott. "It began December 2003 and has honored over 100,000 soldiers to date. These 400 soldiers with the 875th make up the most recent portion of the Arkansas National Guard's 8,500 soldiers to be recognized through this program."

Of course, recognition also went to the only casualty of the 875th, Erich Smallwood.

Smallwood was killed while serving in Iraq in May when an IED exploded near his humvee.

There were 8 purple hearts and 70 bronze stars presented this morning to members of the 875th.

Questions or Comments? E-mail me at rsmith@kait8.com