By Alicia Lacy
Fort Hood Herald
Maj. Gen. Jeffery W. Hammond, 4th Infantry Division commander, and his soldiers gave several Central Texas couples an unexpected show of appreciation and support. Two Copperas Cove couples, Jerry and Marty Smith and Edgar and Loretta Rhode, were among the recipients earlier this month.
The division's recent tour in Iraq had many types of operations, including cleaning up schools and marketplaces, rebuilding the country and fostering an environment for the Iraqi people to maintain and run their own country.
In order to honor those who supported them, the division named each campaign after a couple from the area.
Marty Smith said she was overwhelmed by the gesture from the soldiers.
"We are the ones, as the civilians, trying to support them and thank them and say, 'Welcome home, heroes.' We're the ones that are supposed to be giving to them because they're the ones fighting for our freedom over there," Smith said. "To me, it was very humbling to receive something from them like that. During the whole year, they planned this along with all the stress that they had going on in Iraq."
Hammond invited all the recipients to his home for a dinner and presented them with the award.
"I thought we were going to a reception at their house," Smith said. "I was thoroughly surprised."
The division named a campaign to rebuild a marketplace after the Smiths.
The marketplace wasn't safe, so the soldiers removed the insurgents and reconstructed it to provide the residents in the area a place to buy, sell and trade goods, Smith said.
The operation named for the Rhodes, Operation Loyal Rhode, involved the areas surrounding Route Gold in Sadr City.
According to the mission plan, the area was in a serious state of disrepair, which posed security risks to the local population and coalition forces and impeded improvements for the local economy.
In January, Smith, Copperas Cove Chamber of Commerce president, worked to get community support when soldiers returned, launching a yellow ribbon campaign urging businesses and residents to display yellow ribbons to welcome the soldiers.
"I do this for Copperas Cove, so this support was from the Chamber of Commerce side," she said.
All 34 of the recipients received a framed picture of a map of Iraq and a letter from Hammond explaining the campaigns named for them.