Milan American Legion receives special flag
Soldier thankful for home support

Wanda English Burnett

A local soldier showed his appreciation to the Milan American Legion after returning from Iraq just days before Christmas.

Spc. Mark Toms presented a flag to Ron Mills, commander of the Smith Ashcraft Kissell Post #235 last week with past Ninth District Commander Raymond “Al” Kerner Jr. and present Ninth District Commander Alex F. Cook of Paoli, in attendance. Kerner, of Sunman, is the present District Nine Membership Chairman.

Spending nearly a year in Iraq gave a new appreciation to the words “letter or package from home” according to Spc. Toms.

“You definitely look forward to having something in your mailbox,” Toms told the Osgood Journal as he shared his gratitude to the Milan American Legion, of which he and wife Rhonda are members. He said he was the recipient of packages from them and others and wants them to know how much it is appreciated.
Spc. Toms serves with the Indiana National Guard, Shelbyville.

Commander Mills asked some questions of Toms such as how the American troops interacted with ally troops; how much time was spent daily working; and what the climate was like in Iraq.

To the first questions, Spc. Toms noted he didn’t have time to interact much with allies - except to fulfill their mission. That answer also covered the second question somewhat. The returning soldier said he worked up to 14 hours a day, seven days a week.

Spc. Toms said the fall and winter months in Iraq are similar to the weather climate in Milan. However, the summer is a whole different story. He, along with many others, endured temperatures up to 140 degrees in the daytime, and 110 degrees at night. He said keeping hydrated was paramount to survival.

While Spc. Toms said the mental and physical challenges are posed to each solider who deploys to the war zone he said he is proud of the hard work the soldiers are doing for our country.

“I also thank my wife for her support and friends and family from Milan,” he noted. He said he appreciated the support while he was gone and the welcome home.

A plaque was also presented to the Milan American Legion stating the flag received was flown over the Balad Air Base in Iraq as maneuvers were carried out by UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters. Spc. Toms is part of the “Blacksheep” unit.

“We appreciate these veterans and welcome them into our group,” Mills said. The local American Legion Post is active in the Milan area giving scholarships, partnering in community service projects and supporting active duty soldiers. The building, located on SR 350 at Milan, is a refuge for veterans and their families, according to Mills. “We have a family atmosphere here,” he noted.

Spc. Toms is proud to serve his country and says he’s glad to be home as is his wife and four children - Ashley, 17, Danielle, 15, Dalton, 15, and Alexis, 12.

Pictured from left Ninth District American Legion Commander Alex F. Crook, Spc. Mark Toms, Milan American Legion Commander Ron Mills and past Ninth District Commander Raymond "Al" Kerner Jr., celebrate the homecoming of Spc. Toms upon his return from Iraq. Spc. Toms, who is a member of the Milan American Legion, presented this special flag and plaque to the legion last week.