Dozens of soldiers from 1138th Engineer Company returning tonight after tour in Iraq

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Nearly 100 soldiers, some from Southeast Missouri, will make their way home from Iraq late tonight.

The armory in Farmington, Mo., will hold a welcome-home ceremony at 11 p.m. to greet the returning soldiers of the Missouri Army National Guard's 1138th Engineer Company, according to Sgt. Donnie Ferguson.

Included in the battalion are several area residents, Sgt. Derek Bedwell of Chaffee, Mo., Pvt. Jonny Brennecke, Spc. Joseph Broach and Spc. Manuel Pavon, all of Cape Girardeau, Spc. Thomas Hubbert of Scott City and Pvt. Preston Mayberry of Marble Hill, Mo.

Sgt. Bradley Skelton, 40, of Gordonville lost his life while serving in Iraq, along with Sgt. Matthew Straughter of Belle¿ville, Ill.

Skelton was killed Feb. 6 in Baghdad when his vehicle struck an explosive device.

Ferguson said a moment of silence and prayer will be used to honor the two fallen soldiers.

"We knew our mission would be difficult and would test our capabilities and readiness on the battlefield," said Sgt. 1st Class Andrew Moore.

The mission involved clearing Baghdad routes of improvised explosives, and the company conducted more than 500 combat missions. Soldiers destroyed more than 100 explosive devices.

Ferguson said the commander of the company, Capt. Darren Gove, and 1st Sgt. Robert Haaf will likely speak at the ceremony, but their goal is to keep it short.

The ceremony is expected to last about 30 minutes, allowing soldiers to get to their families as quickly as possible, said Staff Sgt. Heather Carden, a public affairs representative for the 1140th Engineer Battalion.

"They want to get them home," Carden said.

335-6611, extension 245

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