Guardsman's sister plans welcome for 48th Brigade

Photo by Avan Clark

Photo by Avan Clark

ALBANY, Ga. -- The soldiers of the National Guard's 48th Infantry Brigade got a nice send-off when they were deployed to Afghanistan. When they came home ... nothing.

The sister of one of those soldiers couldn't believe there was no organized celebration to welcome home the troops that had put themselves in harm's way, so she decided to do something about it.

Her efforts resulted in the H.O.O.A.H. Concert, a Saturday-night musical celebration properly welcoming members of the 48th Brigade back home with their families.

"'Hooah' is an Army expression, so we used it in coming up with the name of the show," Hope Gresham said. "In this case, it stands for Homecoming Of Our Albany Heroes. My brother (Dustin Dougherty) was in Afghanistan, and I heard from him some of the things those guys went through.

"I felt that they deserved some kind of recognition for everything they did."

So Gresham called up her old friend Bo Henry and asked if he'd help her put together some kind of celebration acknowledging the soldiers of the 48th.

"We always want to support our troops, and when Hope told me her idea, I thought it was a perfect fit for the State Theatre," Henry, co-owner of the downtown venue, said. "Lane (Rosen, the State's other owner) and I immediately said yes and started calling bands in the area. Everybody jumped on board."

The H.O.O.A.H. Concert, which is set to kick off at 7 p.m. at the State, will feature local artists Cole Taylor, Jodi Mann, The LeVee Band, Running Down Romance and the Bo Henry Band.

Tickets for the event are $10 for the general public, $5 for military personnel and free to members of the 48th Brigade.

"The money will be used to pay expenses for the event: the sound, security, decorations," Gresham said. "Any money beyond that will go to the Family Readiness Group, which helps the families of soldiers who are deployed."

Sgt. Robert Terry, who is employed at Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany, said the soldiers of the 48th -- especially the Albany-based Fox Company -- appreciate the event planned in their honor.

"We weren't overly concerned that there was no formal celebration for us here when we got home," Terry said. "At every airport that we flew into, the people were very gracious. At a lot of places, people stopped and clapped when we walked through.

"But it's always a good thing when the community gets behind those who have served their country. I think (the H.O.O.A.H. Concert) offers the community an opportunity to show they're a little more appreciative."

Terry said there are no immediate plans for the 48th Infantry Brigade, which served a 10-month deployment, to return to Afghanistan at the present time.

"We're hearing rumors that our next deployment will be in 2012, but quite honestly I hope (the conflict) is over by then," he said.

Gresham said businesses and individuals unable to attend Saturday's gathering can get involved by signing on as sponsors. Woodmen of the World, Davis Antenna and a number of individuals have already done so.

"I felt terrible that there was no parade in Albany, no homecoming event of any kind for our soldiers," she said. "These men and women sacrificed a year of their lives away from their families, and no one acknowledged that. So I decided it was something I wanted to do."

Henry, who said all artists performing at the H.O.O.A.H. Concert would be paid only if enough money were raised to meet expenses.

"It's just something everyone wanted to get involved with," he said. "It used to be that when our troops returned from combat, people would line the streets to welcome them home. I think we get so busy sometimes, we forget the important things in life.

"I wish we'd planned this event to coincide with the 48th Brigade coming home, but now that they're here, there's no time like the present."

To sponsor Saturday's event or get more information, contact Gresham at (229) 869-1252.