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Gov. Northam, family and friends wish Virginia National Guard troops well as they prepare for deployment

Published: Nov. 27, 2021 at 8:19 PM EST
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BEDFORD, Va. (WDBJ) - A departure ceremony took place Sunday morning at the National D-Day Memorial for the largest single unit, Virginia National Guard mobilization since World War II. Approximately 1,000 Army National Guard Soldiers are headed to the Horn of Africa.

“Sir, request permission to furl the colors. Furl the colors!”

Spoken in a stern loud voice, the meaning behind the symbolic action is that its time.

“This will actually be my first deployment, and I’ve been in the guard 10 years,” said Staff Sergeant Catherine So.

“Deployments are never easy, it’s always difficult,” said Lt. Col. Jim Tierney, the Task Force Commander of Task Force Red Dragon.

There’s one last chance to take a picture, hug a partner, and see a smile in person, instead of through a screen.

Then around 800 soldiers of 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry, as well as 3 other units, will answer the nation’s call to deploy overseas. They will be gone until this time next year.

The main objective of the mission is to provide security for U.S. citizens living in the Horn of Africa, where the guard members will be based, something for which these men and women have trained more than a year.

“A unit that helped local and state authorities respond to the civil unrest in the commonwealth in the spring of 2020, and support federal law enforcement in January of this year to secure the United States Capitol, the Supreme Court, the Library of Congress and the 2021 Presidential Inauguration Ceremony,” said Tierney.

But physical preparation is much different than emotional preparation

“Definitely mixed emotions, you know it’s right after Thanksgiving,” said Tierney.

Families, though, are supportive.

“It sucks to leave, but my dad’s deployed before, he understands it, keeping everyone together, telling everyone not to freak out too much,” said Specialist Johnathan Hannums.

Fellow soldiers become brothers and sisters.

“We’re leaving our family to join a different kind of family; that’s how we should view it,” said So.

“They have been so helpful taking care of individuals, making sure Virginians are safe during the pandemic, I just wanted to be here to say thank you to them and safe travels,” said Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam.

One of the most deployed battalions in the last 20 years, carrying on the rich traditions of the 29th Infantry Divisions of World War I and World War II service.

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