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Laches give soldiers a warm welcome and a warm meal

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By Dave Bell

What began as a simple refueling stop for a convoy of Army vehicles last week turned into a showcase for Fayette County hospitality.

After receiving an inquiry from Army officials seeking a place to set up a refueling station, Dorothy and Steve Lach rolled out the red carpet to about a dozen groups of 20 Army vehicles traveling from Ft. Leonard Wood, Mo., to Camp Atterbury near Indianapolis. More than 500 personnel were involved in the convoy, which passed through the county on Wednesday and Thursday.

Steve removed many of his trucks from the lot at Steve Lach Transportation near the Brownstown I-70 interchange so that the Army vehicles could get in and out easily. Dorothy set about preparing a feast for their camouflage-wearing guests. Instead of road food or Army-issue Meals Ready To Eat, she purchased huge pans of fried chicken, fruit, donuts, coffee, soft drinks and water.

The response was incredible.

Though word of the Laches’ hospitality had traveled throughout the convoy, each new group of soldiers reacted the same – overwhelmed by the gesture. And each group, upon entering the makeshift mess hall in one of the trucking company’s buildings, formed a greeting line to give the Laches a hug or a word of thanks. Then they dove into the waiting chow line.

“We’re really grateful,” said Staff Sgt. Alicia Herbert. “They didn’t have to do this. But if they hadn’t, we would’ve had to eat MREs.”

“It’s amazing,” said Adam Merrill. “It made our day. And it makes our job easier when we see people doing this to support the military.”

Merrill said that the unit is comprised of full-time military personnel. Their job is to respond to an emergency in the United States, such as a natural disaster or catastrophe. The maneuver they were engaged in was to simulate the process of moving to the site of a disaster and setting up operations there.

In recognition for their hospitality, the Laches were presented certificates of appreciation from the Fourth Maneuver Enhancement Brigade. Those certificates recognized them for “providing exceptional support during our movement to Camp Atterbury, Ind. You have gone above and beyond in providing support to the soldiers of this brigade. Your assistance and generosity reflects great credit upon you and the United States of America.”

“The soldiers were so enthusiastic,” Dorothy said. “We are honored to have them here. This is something that we can do for them. We just hope that they remember Vandalia as a place where we welcomed them with open arms.”

Both Laches deflected any praise for organizing the rest stop.

“They’re the ones that deserve the credit,” Dorothy said.

Steve added: “In this part of the country, this is the way we are. The solders are the ones out there doing the hard work; we just fed them a little chicken.”