Armory dedicated in memory of local soldier

Published 12:25 am Sunday, March 2, 2008

The memory of a local hero will live on with the dedication of Picayune’s National Guard Armory in his honor.

Staff Sgt. Larry R. Arnold, Sr., made the ultimate sacrifice on June 11, 2005, when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle while he was serving overseas.

On Saturday, Maj. Gen. Harold A. Cross, the Adjutant General of the Mississippi National Guard, spoke in the memory of Arnold and dedicated Picayune’s National Guard Armory in his honor. From now on a brass plaque with the likeness of Arnold will adorn the entrance to the armory. That plaque will remain even after the planned new center is constructed in the old one’s place, Cross said.

Melinda Arnold, Larry Arnold’s wife, said she is happy he is being honored, but wishes it was under different circumstances.

“I’d rather have him back and honored in a different way, but it is an honor,” Melinda Arnold said.

During Larry Arnold’s time in the National Guard, he made his first tour in Iraq with the 890th Engineer Battalion, but came back early in 2003. With four months left until retirement, he deployed with a detachment of the 150th Engineer Battalion in Lucedale to spend his last tour with his son who was part of the 155th Armored Brigade (Heavy).

For that last tour, he and his fellow soldiers deployed in January of 2005.

Melinda Arnold said 2005 turned out to be a rough year for the Arnold family. In June they found out about Larry Arnold’s death, in July the family held a wedding and in August Hurricane Katrina hit.

“Three months in a row we had something big,” Melinda Arnold said.

James Arnold, Larry Arnold’s youngest son, said his father died doing what he loved. James Arnold said he is proud to see something good come out of his father’s death.

Cross spoke at the dedication event and spoke highly of men like Arnold who give their lives to protect the freedoms Americans enjoy every day.

Of the 400 million people in the United States, about 24 million have served in the armed forces, Cross said.

“These are special people, these are people who volunteered,” Cross said. “We have a special place in our heart for you, we thank you.”

Soon more men will be sent over seas to continue in the war effort. Cross said on March 29, Picayune’s A Company, 890th Engineers will deploy from Gulfport. In May of 2009, the 155th Armor also will prepare to deploy.