May 10, 2007

More Virginia Citizen Soldiers. families answer the call

By Lt. Col. Chester C. Carter III
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

Friends and family members were on hand to bid farewell to the 149 Soldiers from the 116th Brigade Combat Team who left Staunton May 4 in preparation for their year-long deployment to Iraq. (Photo by Lt. Col. Chester C. Carter III, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

STAUNTON, Va. – The gray weather outside reflected the melancholy feeling inside as families, friends, and supporters gathered at the Thomas D. Howie Armory in Staunton to see the Guardsmen of Headquarters Company, 116th Brigade Combat Team off on their one year deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The armory drill floor was full of people on the morning of May 4 as families, friends, and concerned citizens came together to show their support for the 149 Guardsmen of the 116th as they loaded buses in preparation for their trip to Camp Shelby, Miss., where they will prepare for their mission in Iraq.

Maj. Gen. Robert Newman, the Adjutant General of Virginia, hosted the departure ceremony for the Soldiers and their families of Headquarters Company. He was joined by Lacy King, mayor of Staunton, and Delegate Christopher Saxman of the Virginia General Assembly in recognizing the Guardsmen and their families for their contributions and sacrifices.

Even though the sadness and anxiety resulting from the upcoming separations was evident, there was also a feeling of pride and anticipation in the air as well.

“I have never seen the morale of the Soldiers of this company this high,” Capt. Timothy Brooke said. “They have trained all these years for this mission and now they are ready to go.”

Sgt. John Slosser said that he was, “Excited. It is yet again another chance the Army has given me to live an extraordinary life.”

Slosser, who has served with the Army in Afghanistan and South Korea, went on to say, “I’m one of those guys who would dread a nine to five job.”

While most of the units of the 116th have been mobilized in support of the Global War on Terror, the Headquarters Company itself had not been previously mobilized.

 

Family members were on hand to bid farewell to the 149 Soldiers from the 116th Brigade Combat Team who left Staunton May 4 in preparation for their year-long deployment to Iraq. (Photo by Lt. Col. Chester C. Carter III, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

 

Before the ceremony Col. William Phillips, commander of the 116th, was asked how he felt about taking the unit to combat for the first time since World War II.

“There are tons of emotions that go through me,” Phillips said. “No commander [of the 116th], before or after me, will ever be as proud of this unit as I am today.”

During the departure ceremony Phillips told his Guardsmen,“The bugle has sounded; you answered the call.”

During the departure ceremony Newman talked about all the Guardsmen of the 116th had accomplished. He said that since the 116th received the mission earlier this year, these Guardsmen had completed Soldier Readiness Processing, Counter Insurgency training, and many other tasks so they could successfully meet this mission.

Newman echoed Phillips’ feelings of pride about what these Guardsmen had already done. Newman also told the Guardsmen and their families that the mission of the Virginia National Guard is to care for these families while their Guardsmen are deployed.

Following the deployment ceremony, Guardsmen and loved ones had a few last moments to spend together before the Soldiers had to climb aboard the buses that would take them on the first part of their year long journey.

Hands were held, looks were exchanged, and kisses were shared as these modern day Minutemen prepared to leave their families, homes, jobs, school, and personal pursuits. The moment was broken as shouts to board the buses came.

The last kisses and hugs were shared as these warriors began boarding their buses to travel to the first destination of their year-long journey.

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