Dawsonville will welcome back one of its own Friday afternoon in a celebration fit for a hero.
U.S. Army Spc. Michael David Neighbours is scheduled to return home about 4:30 p.m. Friday at Ga. 400 and Hwy. 53.
“We are so excited to see him. This homecoming will be an answer to prayers,” said Kaye Neighbours, his mother. “We are so proud of him and what he’s done that it is hard to put into words how I feel. We are just so proud.”
Dawson County Sheriff’s deputies will escort Neighbours from the Ga. 400-Hwy. 53 crossing to the local chamber of commerce, where he will be welcomed by city and county officials, as well as veterans and residents.
A Dawsonville native, the 21-year-old Neighbours just completed a yearlong tour in Afghanistan, where he was stationed at the Honaker-Miracle forward operating post near the Pech River Valley in Kunar.
According to family members, he will be home for 30 days before going back to Fort Hood, Texas, where he is based, or possibly Fort Knox.
“Let us show Spc. Neighbours the respect and honor he has so rightfully earned and deserves,” said Pam Hamalainen, president of Veterans Affairs of Dawson County. “Citizens of this county are encouraged to line the streets to welcome this Dawsonville hero home.
“Please put out yellow ribbons and our American flag to celebrate the homecoming of a true hero and show your patriotism and support for our active military.”
Hamalainen said members of the local Vietnam Veterans of America chapter plan to place American flags along the road on Hwy. 53 in downtown Dawsonville.
Neighbours is an infantryman specializing in mortar combat. During his tour in Afghanistan, family members said, he faced many hardships, often enduring stretches with little or no food and months without a shower.
For his actions in battle during January, Neighbours received the Bronze Star with Valor and was promoted to specialist.
“Ever since he was a little boy he always said he wanted to be in the Army,” Kaye Neighbours said. “And recently when I asked him what he thought about having to do another tour in Afghanistan, he said, ‘Mom, I will do whatever they need me to do in order to protect my family and my country.’”
Kaye Neighbours added that after the events of Sept. 11, 2001, her son prepared his parents for his plan to enlist in the military.
He completed basic training at Fort Benning and air assault training in Fort Campbell, Ky.
Halfway through his four-year enlistment, Neighbours hopes to someday study politics at the University of Georgia, his mother said.
Among those welcoming Michael Neighbours home will by his wife, Holly Neighbours of Dahlonega, and parents, Wayne and Kaye Neighbours, and sister and brother-in-law, Vanessa and Michael McBrayer, all of Dawsonville.
During his time home he plans to spend time with friends and family, making up for missed birthdays and holidays.