Updated 09/28/2012 07:37 PM
Army National Guard Soldiers On Their Way to Afghanistan
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For departing soldiers, it’s not so much a goodbye, but a "'til we meet again."
"We stand here to see them off, this group of great Americans," said Lt. Col. Jack James.
Forty-five aviation soldiers with the New York Army National Guard's F-Company, 169th are headed to Afghanistan.
"These soldiers are all volunteers. This testament to their patriotism is what sets them apart from the crowd,” said Major General Steven Wickstrom.
Patriotism, and duty are the reasons most joined.
"To me it's an honor to be able to serve, to give back to my country everything that's given to me,” said James Scanlon.
"You're fighting for the freedom of other countries. You're there, helping them out and at the same time you're helping out your own country. That takes a lot of pride, and I'm just proud to be a soldier,” said Pvt. Alyssa Turner.
In deployment, the soldiers will provide medical evacuation support to wounded soldiers in Afghanistan. From here, they'll travel to Fort Hood for training. Their deployment is expected to last about a year.
"When you have a mission this important, it's not a pickup game. You need to have the best people in the right positions, trained and qualified to do the job,” said James.
A year away from home isn't easy. For the soldiers, and maybe more so, their families.
"Bittersweet is a good word to use," Turner said.
"Today it's a tough day. It's a day to say goodbye to the family,” said Mark Vahey.
Vahey, a 25-year veteran, that means re-assuring his daughter and his niece the mission won't last forever.
"I love them, I miss them, but I'll be back. It's just... that's the toughest part."
"To our loved ones. Your job is by far the greatest, the hardest. We understand that and we hope you understand that,” said Captain James Pridgen.
Before departing the soldiers posed one last time for pictures, hugged loved ones, and said goodbye with the promise of coming back home.
"Good luck, God bless you and Godspeed."