The men and women of the Tennessee 134th National Guard Refueling Unit and the 1/230th Army National Guard were reunited Sunday afternoon for a special welcome home ceremony at the Smoky Mountain Opry in Pigeon Forge. Many of the soldiers returned home as late as Saturday night when they were reunited with their families.
On Sunday afternoon the soldiers and their families converged at the Opry where they were treated to a feast in a large tent in the parking lot. Fee/Hedrick Entertainment treated the soldiers and their families to a Christmas meal. Afterwards the families were treated to a special matinee at the Opry featuring the Christmas show.
“I was truly touched by their gratitude,” said Jim Hedrick of Fee/Hedrick Entertainment. “As a child of a military family I can appreciate the sacrifices made by the military families. I grew up in military bases during the Vietnam War era and we are proud to do this for our military families.”
The theater hosted 1,300 soldiers and their family members as a way of saying thank you for the service to the nation. The Smoky Mountain Opry Christmas Show features a cast of more than 50 performers including singers, dancers, silk aerialists, comedians, jugglers and a tribute to the military that was bound to bring this particular audience to its feet.
“What an honor and a privilege it is for us to sponsor this event,” said Hedrick. “I truly understand what it is like for a family member to be deployed.”
Both units are currently on the rotation and may be redeployed within the next year. For now, the families are home and reunited.