Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Flight cancellation delays soldiers’ departure

ALEXANDRIA, La. – Soldiers from North Idaho headed for a year in northern Iraq flew away in a DC-10 jetliner from the airport here on a mellow Saturday afternoon, 24 hours after their scheduled departure.

The soldiers, including 97 from Delta Company drawn from National Guard armories in Post Falls and Bonners Ferry, were in formation Friday evening ready to board buses to meet their plane when the flight was scratched.

No reason was given.

But the delay paid off. Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne, who had vowed to shake the hand of every soldier leaving with the 116th Brigade Combat Team, spent extra time with the engineers.

This unit and no other formed a hollow square around the governor for heartfelt remarks that had Kempthorne choking up at times.

“You take care of each other,” he said. “And we will take care of your families until you are in your own homes again. By God, it has been my honor to be with you these last days.”

Quietly, he thanked the soldiers for their service.

“You have a chance to make a difference in the world – how many people get to say that? This is something you will remember for the rest of your lives,” he said. “It has been my greatest honor in my term of office to shake every one of your hands. That is what I will remember for the rest of my life.”

Company by company, the soldiers marched into slanting evening sunlight to the waiting jet.

Kempthorne, at the base of the stairs, shook every hand.