Rangers Welcomed Back to Parade

Hundreds of Army Rangers spent a very special St. Patrick's Day in Savannah. This morning, 390 Rangers from the First Battalion, 75th Ranger regiment at Hunter Army Airfield gathered at Forsyth Park for an awards ceremony. Forty awards, including several Bronze Stars, were presented to the Rangers for their bravery in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. The Rangers say they're pleased to be honored for their service, but they say they're not in it for the glory.

"I have small children and I feel it's in my best interest to keep their way of life, so if this is how I can contribute to keep it that way, then that's what I'm going to do," Bronze Star recipient SFC William Patterson told us.

Last year, many US Army Rangers spent St. Patrick's Day in the desert sands of Iraq. It was the first year since 1974 that the Rangers did not march in Savannah's St. Patrick's Day parade.

This year, as the Rangers mark 30 years in Savannah, they're back in the big parade. They've come a long way from the sands of the desert. "We mark it on our calendar whether we can be here or not," said Maj. Joe Ryan.

This year, the Rangers are enjoying a much greener climate, and thousands of adoring fans. "It's pretty fun," said Spec. Joseph Fulgence. "We love being here. We love Savannah."

Their families and friends are thrilled to see them march again. Ranger spouse Jamie Johnson is eager to point out Daddy to his little boy. "It's great to have him back and be able to watch him in the parade. This will be Kevin's first time to see him and he's real excited to see him."

The Rangers weren't marching very long before they realized their spouses weren't the only ones who were happy to welcome them back. Young women like Melissa Brown made it pretty clear by kissing as many Rangers as she could. "It's so much fun," she said. "We brought extra lipstick. We put it on after every soldier."

It's their way of making sure these Rangers are marked men. "This is our way of welcoming them back," said Melissa Brown of Savannah.

And the Rangers seem more than willing to enjoy some Southern hospitality. Soldiers from the First Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment recently returned from their third deployment in Afghanistan. The Rangers have also deployed twice to Iraq.

Reported by: Liz Flynn, lflynn@wtoc.com