A year ago they left for Iraq without fanfare, but when they return sometime this month, members of a Kansas Army National Guard unit will be greeted with a special celebration at Forbes Field in Topeka.
At least that is the hope of a group of people scattered throughout the state who have loved ones serving in the 778th Transportation Company.
"We just started working on it this week," said Brandy Dye, whose husband, Spc. Joshua Dye, will be among those returning home. "We are only going to have 12 hours' notice."
The 778th, a combat heavy-equipment transport unit, is based in Olathe, but it is made up of 250 men and women from several communities in Kansas.
Two in the unit are from Lawrence, said Joy Moser, public information officer for the Adjutant General's Department.
There are also guardsmen from Minnesota and Guam who were assigned to the unit for the mission in Iraq, Dye said.
"When you see all these going-away and homecoming parties, those are put on by a community, and we just don't have that one community for them to come back to," said Dye, who lives near Coffeyville.
So Dye and others are hoping the 12-hour notice will be enough to get relatives of guardsmen, high school bands, a disc jockey and light refreshments together at Forbes when the unit returns. They are working with a Guard family assistance group to organize the event.
At this point, Dye isn't even sure the members of the unit will get to stay at Forbes long enough to fully enjoy the party before getting on buses for Fort Riley, their next stop before being released from duty.
"We're working on that," she said. "We're working on a lot of things. We want to show these guys that they are not forgotten just because they don't have one place to go home to."
Douglas County District Court, the post office and most banks will be closed today in honor of Veterans Day. All city offices will be open, and services will run normally, including the Lawrence Public Library. Lawrence Municipal Court will also be open, and court will be in session. Other than District Court, county offices will be open. Senior Services Inc. of Douglas County will also operate with normal hours. Most banks will not be open today because the Federal Reserve Bank is closed. Most banks will open on Saturday with normal Saturday hours. The post office will only make express mail deliveries today, and it will open with its normal hours Saturday.