Sunday, November 2, 2008

Iowans say goodbye to guardsmen headed for Iraq

Not all eyes are on Tuesday’s upcoming election, in particular those of the approximately 310 Iowa National Guard soldiers and their family and friends, who said their goodbyes at sendoff ceremonies across the state Thursday.

The Department of Defense (DOD) and the National Guard Bureau, Washington, D.C., have ordered the 1133rd and 1168th Transportation Companies to federal active duty. The mobilization is part of Operation Iraqi Freedom and the Global War on Terrorism. The Soldiers will leave Iowa and report to Fort Bliss, Texas for additional preparation and training before departing for the Central Command theater of operation.

To honor the guardsmen, political dignitaries joined family and friends at the sendoff ceremonies in Audubon, Iowa City, Mason City, Perry and Marshalltown.

Audubon

Several hundred people crowded in to the Audubon High School to say goodbye to 65 members in Detachment 2 of the 1168th Transportation Company. They were joined by Gov. Chet Culver and U.S. Rep. Steve King, D-Iowa, who presided over the ceremony, the Caroll Daily-Times Herald reported.

"I'm here with a simple message," Culver, a surprise guest, told the soldiers standing at attention in six ranks before him. "To thank the members of the Guard for your service to our country, to our state, and to join every Iowan in honoring you as you are deployed."

"But as you depart, I want you to always remember you are not alone. We will always be here for you, and we will always be grateful for your service to the country that we love. Because our service members are Iowa's heroes…”


King remarked that he was impressed by Thursday's show of community support.

"I wasn't prepared for what I saw when we came over the hill here today at Audubon," he said, referring to the hundreds of vehicles parked outside.

"You come out, Audubon, Audubon County and the surrounding area. You come out to support our military men and women who have sent themselves up as volunteers to defend our freedom and promote freedom around the world. This is a powerful testimony to the best that America has to offer here in the heartland of America."
Iowa City

Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, joined 25 members in Detachment 1, 1133rd Transportation Company at the Regina High gymnasium in Iowa City, commending them for being both members of a community and defenders of it, the Iowa City Press-Citizen reported.
"You are true patriots and you represent the best of America," Loebsack said. "You make Iowa and our nation proud."
Not everyone was excited about the upcoming deployment, including Jennifer -- the pregnant wife of Sgt. Nile Watkins-Schoening, who is preparing for his second deployment in three years.
Jennifer said she "was a little irate" when she heard her husband would deploy again. He also missed Eve's [his 2-year old daughter] birth, returning when she was already 15 months old after serving with the Iowa Army National Guard's 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry from September 2005 to July 2007.
Marshalltown

Hundreds of well-wishers gathered at the Babe Harder Gymnasium on the Marshalltown Community College campus in Marshalltown to say goodbye to 40 members in Detachment 1, 1168th Transportation Company, the Marshalltown Times-Republican reported.

Kaleb Morrow of Centerville, who was previously deployed from 2003 to 2004 to Iraq admitted that the second deployment was going to more difficult since he is leaving behind his two young daughters, including 2-year-old Emilia and 2-month-old Alexandria, and his wife, Bernadette.
"It's going to be very rough to say goodbye," he said before the ceremony.

Morrow said he feels they are better equipped this time around especially when it comes to more armor.
Mason City

Hundreds of family members and friends filled the Mason City High School gymnasium to help send off 115 members of the 1133rd Transportation Company, the Mason City Globe-Gazette reported.

Lt. Gov. Patty judge spoke on behalf of Culver:
“Once before you have traveled to Iraq to protect the people of America and Iraq,” said Lt. Gov. Patty Judge. “There isn’t an Iowan who isn’t grateful for your sacrifices.”

“On behalf of Gov. Culver, myself and our families, we want you to know that we will be thinking of you, following your work and you will be in our prayers every day,” she said.
Several of the soldiers are serving their second deployment, including Staff Sgt. Scott Dunning, whose wife is expecting their first child, a boy, on Sunday.
“I’m due on Sunday,” she said. “That’s in three days.”

Looking at his wife, Dunning’s voice cracked, saying, “It makes it very, very difficult to leave.”
Perry

A sendoff ceremony was also planned for 65 members in the 1168th Transportation Company Perry High School gymnasium in Perry.

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