ELIZABETHTOWN — Yellow ribbons throughout the downtown and a “Welcome Home Troops” sign at the Elizabethtown Municipal Building say it all. Three members of 882 2nd-505 Engineering Company will return to Bladen County on Tuesday morning.
The main unit is located in Mocksville but is made up of members from all over North Carolina, including those from Bladen County.
The troop members returning home are Spec. Montrel Willis and Spec. Michael Lawton, both of Elizabethtown, and Sgt. Josh Lopez of Clarkton. Due to a death in his family, Lopez returned earlier, said Maggie Lawton.
Lawton, the wife of Michael Lawton, said of their return, “It means hallelujah, I can be normal again!”
She said there are plans for a pig-picking in honor of her husband’s return and they will celebrate all of the holidays and birthdays he has missed while he was deployed for nine months to Kuwait.
In addition to the family celebrations, Lawton said that Just Desserts will allow the returning military to have on meal for free. Houston’s Peanuts in Dublin is also proudly displaying a welcome sign, she added.
Sarah Baysden said the town of Elizabethtown purchased the yellow ribbons for Lawton, who, with the help of her mother, put them up around town. Town staff have also placed American flags along Broad Street as a sign of welcoming.
She said having her husband away on deployment is difficult and often times can be a hardship.
“I’m ready for him to be home,” said Lawton. “It has been a long hard year. I’ve had cancer and had to go through that by myself and my dad had to have surgery and I had to go through that by myself, so I’m ready for him to be home.”
She said it helped having the support of her family and friends as well as Skype.
“There were a lot of times they didn’t have access to Internet… They allowed them to call their families on Christmas and he got to talk to everyone … It’s hard to go through a holiday when someone out of your family isn’t there,” said Lawton.
Lawton said this is her husband’s sixth deployment.
“He went to Kuwait this time, but he’s been to Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and Iraq,” said Lawton.
She added this was Willis’ second deployment. He has been on one other deployment to Afghanistan.
“They are all one unit, but they move from spot-to-spot,” said Lawton of their deployment.
As she prepares for her husband’s arrival she said she is most looking forward to re-establishing their routine of a date night on Thursdays.