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Reflecting on 2009: March-April
Kieu Ngoe Phan sits with three of her children, Hanna and Lindsey Luong and Ryan Phan when they lived in Hinesville. In March, Phan’s common-law husband, Lam Luong, admitted throwing the children, along with Danny Luong, 4 months, to their deaths off a bridge into the Gulf of Mexico. - photo by Photo provided.
As 2009 comes to a close, the Courier put together the year in review through front page stories. The dates listed are the date the Courier printed the stories, not the date on which the events occurred. The following is a review of March and April news stories.

March 6
Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas, along with other community leaders, travelled to Washington, D.C., to voice concerns of residents. The priority was to ensure money from the stimulus package for projects in the area.
“Unless you go plead your case individually, they don’t know what you need,” Thomas said.

March 8
Former Hinesville resident, Lam Luong, pled guilty to throwing his four children into the Mississippi Sound from an 80-foot high span of bridge. Under Alabama law, where the former resident was currently living, capital murder defendants must be tried before a jury even when pleading guilty.

March 15
1st Heavy Brigade’s Combat Team successfully completed the “real world” training exercise, simulating man-made crisis response. The HBCT’s training took place near Orlando, Fla. The CCMRF (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high-yield explosive consequence management response force) training taught HBCT to operate in sudden crises.

Georgians moved to limit stem cell research, despite President Obama’s new stance and promotion of the research. After eight years of limited research under the Bush administration, conservatives still linked stem cell research to abortion, some fearing that embryonic research could lead to the even more lenient abortion laws.

March 18

Builders and developers made plans for expansion based on the expected fifth brigade. They anticipated for 390 new soldiers and their families to enter the area between April and October, then 1,000 more in October of 2011. They planned accordingly.

March 22
The Census reported Liberty County’s population at 58,491, which would be a 3.2 percent decrease from the previous year. Because cities seemed to be experience growth in their population, many were questioning the census data.
“That’s balderdash,” City Manager Billy Edwards said. He guessed the county population closer to 70,000.

A new transit system, named Transit Liberty, was ready to be launched after a meeting where officials were told to expect more than $1.3 million from the American Recovery Reinvestment Act. This long awaited public bus route seemed well on its way.

March 25
A report released by the Army inspector general concluded that at least 15 “inadequate, unsynchronized or conflicting” policies existed in policies for Army physical fitness. The report said that the existence of such policies “increases the likelihood that soldiers who do not meet medical deployability requirements may be deployed in violation of one or more policies.” The report was released after concern for deploying medically unfit soldiers was raised by veteran associations.

March 27

Grants from the Community Home Investment Program allowed the city of Hinesville to help low-income families own homes. By remodeling once dilapidated homes, the city was able to improve the community and the lives of low-income families simultaneously.

March 29

A Gum Branch man, accused of killing his mother and stepfather five years earlier, was caught in Macon. He was allegedly found breaking into a car.
“It feels as if a load has been lifted off my shoulders and I will finally have closure,” Jeweline Troha, daughter of one of the murder victims, said.
Officials said construction of Highway 196 was coming to a close, after more than three years. The project began in October 2006.
“The project will be complete this year,” Trace Martell with R.B. Baker Construction said of 2009.

April 1

The Liberty County Board of Education put construction projects on hold. Both the plans to build a new middle school on Fort Stewart and the ancillary projects at Bradwell Institute were delayed. Chairwoman Lily Baker suggested that a lack of diversity in the committee was the problem.
“This committee didn’t represent our community,” Baker said.

April 3
The Liberty County-Hinesville Emergency Management Agency took precautions for stormy weather. Flood and tornado warnings in the area had the agency preparing for the storm as best they could. School officials cancelled classes in anticipation for the more storms as well.

April 5

The Hinesville City Council meeting consisted primarily of plans for the incoming fifth brigade. The council approved many different planning and zoning requests, including plans for a 222 unit apartment complex. While the city showed concern about how it was going to accommodate all of the new residents, anticipated to be around 10,000. Real estate professionals were not as concerned, citing 704 available houses in Liberty County and Ludowici.

April 8
Fort Stewart was the first in the nation to receive the new Heavy Expandable Mobility Tactical Trucks. It received 39 of the vehicles to replace the older version of the model.
“We’re the first unit in the entire U.S. Army to receive these vehicles,” said Lt. Col. Johnney Matthews, commander of the 3rd BSB.

April 17

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said his proposal to President Obama included that the number of new brigade combat teams would cap at 45, instead of 48. Since Fort Stewart was slated to get the 46th, this caused concern in the area, as it would mean a fifth brigade would not come to the area.
“We are still in a position to get the brigade,” said Frank Norton of Hurt, Norton & Associates, Inc., a Washington, D.C.-based lobbying firm.

Staff Sgt. John Dresel testified at a hearing that he saw Sgt. Joseph C. Bozicevich standing over one of his victims, the victim pleading for mercy. Still, defense attorneys said that Bozicevich, 39, was acting in self defense when he killed two of his fellow platoon leaders in Iraq.

April 22

The Board of Education restarted the architectural bidding process for a Fort Stewart middle school. All six board members voted for restarting the process, but Chairman Lily Baker abstained, saying she didn’t agree with the process, but supported the board regardless. The middle school was predicted to open in fall 2010.

April 24
With the growing concern that a fifth brigade might not become part of the 3rd Infantry Division, a meeting of the Fort Stewart Growth Management Partnership talked about the possibility. Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas asked that partnership members and their constituents petition Georgia lawmakers, asking for support for the projected stationing of a new brigade.

April 26
Great American Cleanup drew 160 volunteers and picked up litter from Liberty County streets.
“Last year, we picked up over a ton of trash,” said Keep Liberty Beautiful Director Sara Swida. “We’re really happy with the level of involvement.”

April 29
Liberty County’s animal shelter won a $10,000 cash prize from the competition. Liberty Humane Shelter President Sandra Frye said the shelter will try again for the million dollar grand prize when the makeover competition begins again in October.
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