Soldiers head home today

Hundreds of Oregon Army National Guard soldiers returning from Iraq march in a parade through west Medford today before a demobilization ceremony at South Medford High School.

The parade from the Veterans Park near the Medford Armory to Spiegelberg Stadium at South Medford High School begins at 2:30 p.m., and the ceremony will follow at 3 p.m. at the high school, 815 S. Oakdale Ave.

Guests at the ceremony will include Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski, U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, U.S. Rep. Greg Walden and Maj. Gen. Fred Rees, the state's adjutant general.

The local soldiers are expected to be accompanied on the march to the school by the 234th Army Band and the Southern Oregon Scottish Bagpipe Band.

The Guard's 1st Battalion 186th Infantry has units in Ashland, Medford, Grants Pass, Roseburg, Coos Bay and St. Helens and deployed some 600 citizen soldiers to Iraq last July as part of the 2,800 from the Guard's 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team. The deployment was the largest in Oregon since World War II.

Nearly 330 soldiers from the 1/186th arrived last Saturday at Fort Lewis, Wash., for what was expected to be nearly a week's processing before returning to Oregon.

They will arrive in Medford by plane from Fort Lewis, Wash., and will be escorted to the Armory by members of the Medford Police Department and motorcyclists from the Old Guard Riders.

After being given private time to meet with loved ones, the soldiers will begin on South Pacific Highway, then march west on Stewart Avenue, north on Holly Street and turn west on Monroe Avenue to parade into the stadium. Monroe will be lined with American flags, parade organizers have said.


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