By Tony Parra
The idea started out as a way to welcome back Portales members of the 126th Military Police and soon it blossomed into a way of showing appreciation to all of those who have served in the military.
That appreciation will come in the form of a “Welcome Home Troops” parade which will be held at 10:30 a.m. on March 18 in Portales.
Turning the idea into reality was the work of Nancy Gentry, Kevin Robbins and Erica Bedinger.
Bedinger, the wife of Staff Sgt. Brett Bedinger, spoke with Gentry and Robbins about how they could welcome the soldiers back. Gentry has helped in organizing other parades and Robbins, a military veteran and member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Portales, is helping with involvement from VFW members.
Robbins said soon thereafter the decision was made to have the parade show appreciation for current and former members of the U.S. military.
“I can’t explain or put into the words how it feels to be back together,” Erica said about her husband’s return. Erica said Brett was deployed soon after their daughter, Genevieve, was born on Feb. 25, 2005. “He had only spent 12 days of her life with her.”
Now, however, Brett gets to spend time with his family and get reacquainted with those he loves.
“I think so many people have had to endure for so long without their families,” Brett said. “They (military families) have shown their appreciation and support for everyone who has served. It’s a relief to be back.”
Brett, who recently returned, is having to get reaccustomed to the life of normalcy since he’s been back in Portales.
“It’s difficult,” Brett said. “It’s a culture shock. You also feel like a stranger in your own house. You have to adjust to being around a lot of people without there not being any danger.”
Darren Hooker of Portales also just recently returned and echoes Brett’s sentiments. Lt. Hooker, who returned to Portales on Tuesday evening, said he led a 32-member platoon from the 126th Military Police.
Hooker said one example of having to adjust to life in the United States is the way a broken-down car is viewed. Hooker said in Iraq it was viewed as a possible danger, perhaps with explosives. Now that Hooker’s in Portales, he has to adjust to seeing a broken-down car as just that and nothing else.
In Hooker’s platoon there were three others from Portales: Bedinger, Pfc. Roy Burton and Spc. James Montgomery. They have already participated in a parade in Albuquerque which was held during the day on Tuesday.
“I’m excited about the parade in Portales,” Hooker said. “Everyone has been real supportive since we’ve been back home. Anywhere you go they want to shake your hand, buy you a coke or buy you a meal.”
Hooker said he will spend time with his family and go back to work as a deputy for the Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Department beginning on April 1.
Gentry said there is no cost for entries and the deadline to enter a float or any other entry is March 16. For more information, contact 760-7570. Applications can be picked at the Roosevelt County Chamber of Commerce.
Gentry said she wants to have local marching bands, organizations, businesses and current military personnel or veterans in the parade.
“I think we need to realize how much people have sacrificed for us to have our freedoms,” Gentry said. “It would be nice to show our support for them.”
Erica Bedinger said a fire truck will carry members of the 126th Military Police.
The “Welcome Home Troops” parade will begin at South Avenue O and will come down along Second Street to Main Street. The parade route will then turn right on Main Street and end at the Veterans of Foreign Wars building on Main Street.