Governor honors Alabama Army National Guard group

Posted by Bryan Henry  -  bio | email

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Heroes honored today in the old State Capitol.

"It's an honor to stand before you today," said Governor Bob Riley.

An honor because of what happened more than a month ago on Interstate 20 near Meridian, Mississippi. The Alabama Army National Guard 2101st Transportation group was on its way back to Alabama from training in Camp Shelby. A church bus from the First Baptist Church in Shreveport, Louisiana, was traveling in front of the bus when it happened; the church bus blew a tire and rolled not once but three times.

"We saw a plume of smoke," said Sgt. Gary Goodson who saw it all unfold.

"We could see the bus swerve back and forth and it rolled three times," said Goodson.

From there the epitome of teamwork. Members of the transportation group literally lifted up the 30-passenger bus just enough so survivors could crawl out.

Adrenaline in full swing, Ike Gipson knew this was the time to remain calm and be in control.

"I gave them encouraging words even though you know it's bad," said Gipson.

Two teenagers died but 21 survived including 6 adults.

"You are extraordinary men and women," Governor Riley told the group.

Mr. Riley awarded each one the Alabama Commendation Medal, a medal for outstanding service.

Just two weeks ago members of the First Baptist Church in Shreveport traveled to Alabama and personally thanked the 2101st and brought with them a big pot of gumbo.

Gipson for one has earned many medals and ribbons over a 25-year career with the guard including the Bronze, but this one he says stands out.

Answering the call, saving lives on an interstate in Mississippi.

Sgt. Gary Goodson says had the guard not been there at least 5 more people would have died. The two who did were two children.

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