How to help
For those interested in making a tax-deductible donation to Operation Patriot's Call, call Ron Kellner at (770) 534-2509 or Dave Dellinger at (770) 718-7676.
A public ceremony welcoming the Gainesville-based 802nd Ordnance Company home from Afghanistan is being planned for March 5.
Many details are yet to be worked out, but Ron Kellner of Operation Patriot’s Call — the military support group organizing the event — expects the celebration to take place at Lakewood Baptist Church on Thompson Bridge Road in Gainesville.
Kellner said Monday the group was looking for a site large enough to accommodate about 240 troops, plus families and the general public. He estimated about 700 people or more could attend.
The ceremony could take place in the afternoon, after the soldiers have eaten lunch at the U.S. Army Reserve Center on Shallowford Road.
“I’m hoping to get the Patriot Guard (Riders), a band and all of the things we had and a few that we didn’t have with Charlie Company,” Kellner said.
“I just haven’t gotten the confirmations back.”
Patriot’s Call sponsored a homecoming celebration in June for Charlie Company, a Georgia Army National Guard unit based off Alta Vista Road in Gainesville.
That unit returned to the U.S. from Afghanistan in late March.
The homecoming event at Lakeshore Mall featured speakers, an awards ceremony and the presentation of a commemorative coin to soldiers. Patriot’s Call hopes to present coins to the 802nd as well, Kellner said.
Patriot Guard, a motorcycle group that often shows at military-related events, flanked Charlie Company as it marched in and out of the mall.
The March 5 ceremony is a formal welcoming of the 802nd, which has been in the U.S. since November.
The soldiers returned unharmed.
The soldiers first returned to Fort Stewart in Savannah, with most leaving the base with families after debriefings.
A small group returned to Gainesville on Nov. 19 in a chartered bus.
Along with family members, Patriot’s Call members and some area residents greeted the soldiers as they arrived to signs, loud cheers and shouts of “Welcome home!”
Patriot’s Call is still trying to raise money for its endeavors, including the homecoming and helping veterans’ families.
For a donation of $100 or more, people can receive one of the flags the 802nd flew in Afghanistan.