The RCA Dome will be filled to capacity today, but there will be no football team. The stadium will be awash in military uniforms. The stands will be packed with military families. They will gather there to say goodbye.
In the largest Indiana National Guard deployment since WWII, 3,400 soldiers from the 76th Brigade Combat Team prepare to head for Iraq today, including approximately 50 soldiers from the Greencastle National Guard Armory.
Sergeant Kenny Boler, 47, Cloverdale, will be among the group headed to war. The Boler family will be there to wish him well, and this is not the first time they have said goodbye to a soldier.
On Oct. 16, 2005, his older brother, Sgt. Jerold Boler, was honored in a similar farewell ceremony. His wife caries memories of that day as she prepares to watch her brother-in-law go.
"I remember when we went to see my husband off -- when I saw the back side of him running to get on that bus," said Suzette Boler. "My only thought was 'Am I ever going to see him again?'"
Suzette says that life at home during a deployment is difficult, and often made up of patterns and routines. However, farewell ceremonies like today's at the RCA Dome take on a feeling of ritual.
"These are the pictures you hold onto until you see them again," she reflects, remembering her husband as he walked away. "That is why the last moment you spend with family is so important."
On June 8, 2006, Sgt. Jerold Boler was wounded when a roadside bomb struck his Humvee, earning him a purple heart.
As early as 2003, the Army News Service began reporting that casualties from Iraq and Afghanistan were suffering more head injuries than in previous wars, but no one detected Boler's traumatic brain injury until months later, and he received no treatment until he returned home to the United States in December 2006.
Today, constant seizures, memory loss, recurring blackouts, tremors, loss of motor control and severe symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder have left Sgt. Jerold Boler on permanent disability. Looking back, Suzette says that the last time she saw the man she married was the day he boarded a bus for Iraq.
"My husband is still a wonderful man," Suzette said. "But he is forever changed."
As the Boler family braces itself for another deployment, she hopes that everyone gathered at the RCA dome today will be prepared.
"You're seeing the person you know for the last time," she said. "The last hug, you just don't want to let go."
Today, 3,400 Indiana National Guard soldiers will be honored in a private ceremony before boarding buses bound for Ft. Stewart, Ga., and in a few months, Iraq. The Banner Graphic will provide coverage of the deployment ceremony, and as part of a multi-part series, bring you a more detailed look at the wartime contribution of the Boler family -- a look at home life during a military deployment, life after a traumatic brain injury and the family's ongoing efforts to secure amendments to the Family Military Leave Act both in Michigan and Indiana.