SIKESTON -- Members of Sikeston's 1140th Charlie Company Engineer Battalion may be serving in Iraq right now, but there's no way they're going to miss the 52nd Annual Jaycee Bootheel Rodeo next week.
The Sikeston Jaycees won't let them.
On Wednesday, the opening night of the Rodeo, Sikeston Jaycees will conduct a special ceremony regarding the U.S. flag that's been flown at Charlie Company's base in Iraq.
"A special monologue that goes along with the flag, such as where it went and how we got a hold of it will be said before the National Anthem is played," said Mike Conway, 2004 general co-chairman of the Sikeston Jaycees Bootheel Rodeo.
A special representative with the 1140th will also be present for the ceremony Wednesday night, Conway said.
"What brought this about is it hit home -- finally -- with the 1140th being in Sikeston," Conway said. "It's motivated a lot of people to act and pitch in."
When Charlie Company departed in January, the Sikeston Jaycees sent a U.S. flag and a Jaycees club flag with them, Conway said.
"They flew the American flag in Iraq, and all of them signed the Jaycee club banner and sent them back to us," Conway explained.
Another ceremony will be conducted on Saturday, the last day of the rodeo, regarding the U.S. flag that flew in Iraq.
"On Saturday, we'll retire the flag and honor the Guard in Iraq, and then we'll present it to Lloyd Stoner (rodeo 2004 general chairman) on behalf of the Jaycees. It will be put in a display case for the community as well as the Jaycees," Conway explained.
In addition to the special words before Wednesday and Saturday's rodeos, a banner for the community to sign will be set up by Charlie Company's Family Readiness Group in front of the ticket office throughout rodeo week.
"Patrons will be able to sign a thank you or a message, and we'll ship it off to Iraq and hopefully boost some morale," Conway said.
And from 2-3 p.m. Saturday in conjunction with the Rodeo's Community Day, a video camera will be set up at the Jaycee Arena, where members of the community will be able to tape a brief message for Charlie Company.
"It looks like we're going to be able to videotape rodeo performances as well as part of the entertainers' acts and package them along with the greetings from community for about a two-hour production on DVD," Conway said. The Jaycees hope it will give the troops a piece of their hometown, Conway said.
"I was over there in 1991 for six months," Conway recalled. "And you stay gone and come back -- and you can't recall some things like whose No. 1 on the music charts and which new movies are out."
Plus some of the members of the 1140th are Sikeston Department of Public Safety officers, Conway pointed out.
"They've done security details and helped us with the gates at the rodeo. So it's more than just being able to see the rodeo -- some of them are missing the other things, too," Conway said.
Conway credited this year's rodeo general chairman for making the salute come together.
"Lloyd's (Stoner) done a lot of hard work and kept on top and pushing for the video and it looks like it's going to work out," Conway praised.
Conway admitted he's not sure if the Sikeston Jaycees has ever saluted troops while they were serving the country during rodeo time.
"We're excited about doing something for the troops and they've done a lot for the community," Conway said. "They may be gone, but we want to make sure they're not forgotten about. Hopefully it will bring some of home to them."
The Sikeston Jaycees will also accept donations at the rodeo grounds for the support of Coalition Charlie Company.