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published: Sunday, February 24, 2013
County says goodbye to 325 National Guard unit as they leave for Qatar
By SAMANTHA GHOLAR
SEBRING - It was an emotion filled afternoon Thursday as 325 soldiers were honored during the 3rd Battalion 116th Field Artillery Deployment Ceremony. The brigade will depart from Highlands and surrounding counties this weekend, The soldiers will spend nine months in Qatar.
Approximately 1,200 family members, friends and supporters filled the Highlands County Fair and Convention Center to show their respects and wish the soldiers well.
Soldiers stood in formation throughout the ceremony listening to the kind and encouraging words of guests speakers.
The send-off featured half a dozen speakers who addressed the brave men and women, including Florida Congressman Tom Rooney.
"There is no greater service that what you and your families are about to do," Rooney said. Rooney offered many thanks and well-wishes to the soldiers as they venture out into the Middle East.
Matthew Hearon, a former 116th artillery brigade commander during the unit's last deployment in 2005, spoke briefly to the soldiers, reminding them that they are fully capable of returning from their deployment safe and sound.
"They've known for a year that they are mobilizing and deploying. I have the utmost confidence that they will exceed expectations," Hearon said. "As for your families, we are here for you while your soldiers are deployed. Do not hesitate to contact us."
Lt. Col. David Pellet is the current brigade commander for this deployment. Pellet looks forward to supervising the 325 souls he is in charge of while deployed.
"I am truly honored to be your commander," Pellet said to the soldiers.
Following the ceremony, soldiers were greeted throughout the center by familiar faces - some smiling, some frowning. Plenty of hugs and kisses were given out and the soldiers had plenty to say regarding their deployment.
Sanchia James of Orlando is a 12-year veteran in the military. Though this will be James' first deployment, she isn't feeling as nervous as she thought she would.
"I'm not nervous, no. I'm just ready to get over there, get it done and get back," said the mother of two.
James works as a military police dispatcher. Her job is an important part of the daily operations of any unit. Though the career woman focuses on the job in front of her, James' girls are always on her mind.
"The little things are what I'm going to miss the most," James said. "I drop them off at school every day, take them to doctor's appointments, pick them up. I'm just sad because my smallest girl starts kindergarten this year. Being there for one and not being there for the other one starting is going to be hard."
James was accompanied by friends and family members who gave her support. Though she won't be back home until early December, James knows that her girls are in the best hands.
Scott Watson of Sebring was sharing hugs with his mother, Sherri, and other friends and family. This deployment will make Watson's third trip overseas.
"He's a pro now," Watson said jokingly of her son.
The 3rd Battalion 116th Field Artillery will mobilize at Camp Shelby in South Mississippi for a short period of time before deploying to Qatar. These 325 brave men and women are commended on their bravery and service to not only this community but to the nation.
Thank you (by: Blindman~ - 2/26/2013)
Thank you to all the men & women in uniform who serve our country and defend freedom. And thank you to the fine families of our courageous defenders. God Bless America~
Thanks (by: Sam the black man - 2/24/2013)
Thanks for keeping us Free....We will Pray for all of you..
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