BENNINGTON — The send-off event planned for Bennington Armory-based troops being deployed overseas has grown exponentially in terms of assistance from multiple area groups and organizations.
Rep. Mary Morrissey, who has spearheaded the planning effort, said Friday that what she hopes will be a rousing departure for about 40 Vermont Army National Guard soldiers was down to the final details.
Members of the Bravo Troop (Black Jack) of the 1st Squadron, 172nd Calvary Mountain Regiment, will leave Bennington from the Armory by bus at 6 p.m. Monday, accompanied by a motorcade of police vehicles. It will move up Washington Street behind the Armory to Elm Street, before turning left toward South Street (Route 7).
The vehicles will then head through the Four Corners on their way north on Route 7 to Camp Ethan Allen in Jericho. Supporters are expected to line the sidewalks and lawns in Bennington along the route, Morrissey said, and most businesses or other entities have promised a contingent will be out in force to participate.
Among those will be the Bennington Select Board, which will begin its regular board meeting a half hour later, at 6:30 p.m. to allow people to attend. The motorcade will pass by the town offices on South Street before heading out of town.
The Guard unit will join others in deploying Tuesday to the European Republic of Kosovo.
The deployment is for one year, and the Vermont Guard members will join a NATO peacekeeping force stationed in the Balkan nation since the end of a war involving Serbia in 1999.
The Bennington-based unit is among three Vermont Guard units deploying in May that represent the last of 950 soldiers to be deployed from Vermont during 2021 to sites in Africa, Europe and with U.S. Central Command.
According to a release from the Vermont Guard, the units have been training more than a year for deployment.
SHOW OF SUPPORT
Morrissey said she is asking those attending to try to be in place by 5:30 p.m. in locations along the route, in part because some streets might be temporarily blocked off to allow the motorcade to pass. She added that residents should try to observe COVID-19 regulations as well while waiting to wave, cheer and wave flags and signs in support of the troops.
Those attending also are asked not to come to the Armory property behind the town offices while the soldiers are saying goodbye to family members, she said.
She said Friday that police vehicles from the Bennington Police Department, Vermont State Police, the Bennington County Sheriff’s Department, Manchester Police and Winhall Police – which has a member deploying with the unit – and possibly others will participate.
So will area veterans groups and their auxiliaries and local service clubs. They include Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1332, American Legion Post 13, as well as local Rotary and Lions clubs, the Eagles, the Elks and other organizations. Girl and boy scout troops also will participate, Morrissey said.
After the motorcade heads north from the Four Corners, there will be a ceremonial drive through the Vermont Veterans Home property off North Street, which will circle the facility and allow residents to view the deploying troops along the way.
“This is a real honor not only for the veterans [at the home] but for the troops deploying,” Morrissey said.
Before exiting along the home’s Avenue of Flags onto North Street, the motorcade will stop at the gazebo on the home lawn, where Lynn Sweet, of the Mount Anthony Union High School music department, will sing “America the Beautiful.”
When leaving the home grounds, Morrissey said the vehicles will pass under a huge flag draped between two fire department ladder trucks.
Shortly afterward, veterans’ motorcycle groups from the VFW, the American Legion and other riders will salute the deploying soldiers and then fall in behind the motorcade. Vehicles from a half dozen local rescue squads also will join the procession.
The Guard unit and its escorts will then pass about two dozen fire trucks with lights flashing parked along North Street before the motorcade reaches Kocher Drive, and firefighters from several area departments in dress uniforms will be standing near their vehicle to salute the troops.
Before participants in the motorcade begin to pull off Route 7 north, the vehicles will pass beneath another large flag draped off an overpass railing from two parked fire trucks.
The town also intends to mount on light poles “76” flags earlier this year to be in place for the motorcade, Morrissey said. Normally, those are place in time for Memorial Day.