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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Don't forget us: soldiers say goodbye for Iraq

Thursday, January 3, 2008

In a farewell ceremony Wednesday, a soldier scanned the crowd for faces of family. His hand rose from a sea of soldiers to wave, "I love you."
The RCA Dome was teeming with combat fatigues and tears, and echoed with a shout of "Hooah," as family and friends gathered to say goodbye to 3,400 Indiana National Guard soldiers bound for Iraq Wednesday.

The farewell ceremony held for the 76th Brigade Combat Team marked the largest deployment of Indiana National Guard soldiers since World War II and included roughly 50 soldiers from the Greencastle Armory.

"It was a good day," said Sgt. Christopher McFadden, 30, of Greencastle. "But it's hard to watch my family go through what they are going through."

Sgt. 1st Class Richard Joyce, (from left) 1st Sgt. Dale Blubaugh, Capt. Charles M. Padgett and Pvt. Kaleb Blubaugh, all of the Greencastle National Guard Armory, watched as their fellow soldiers readied themselves for deployment to Iraq,Wednesday. "I hope we get this kind of ceremony when I go," said Pvt. Blubaugh, who completed basic training last summer. "It's an honor to even be in their presence."
McFadden has been deployed twice in his seven years of Guard service, but his pending trip to Iraq will mark his first war zone posting, and his first military deployment since becoming a husband and father of two.

McFadden says that ceremonies like the one that took place Wednesday are as meaningful for soldiers as they are for the families that they leave behind, but he asks that everyone at home do just one more thing.

"Don't forget about us," he said. "Don't stop sending letters even if it's to a soldier you don't know. Remembering that people back home are still thinking about you gets you by."

A somber-faced man stands for the "National Anthem" during Wednesday's ceremony.
Morale, according to many soldiers at the RCA Dome, is what Wednesday's event was all about.

"It helps you get mentally prepared to go," said Spec. Brian Robertson, 33, who has been stationed at the Greencastle Armory since he enlisted two years ago. "It lets us know that people are behind us. We need our morale up or we'll be fighting a battle that we can't win."

Robertson says that though the ceremony is designed to prepare his family for the long separation, he is not sure that is really possible.

Surrounded by a crowd of fellow Guard soldiers, a woman blows a kiss to someone in the audience during the ceremony.
"I hope it does," he said, "but I don't think they can ever be prepared."

Dignitaries also delivered messages to the deploying soldiers and their families, thanking them for their sacrifice.

"Indiana loves the soldier and Indiana loves the soldier's family," said 6th District Congressman Mike Pence. "We who live under the protection of your loved ones will pray for you as well."

Along with gratitude came promises of support from elected officials who acknowledged both the emotional and financial hardship that many military families face during a deployment.

"We will do whatever needs to be done to take care of your families," said Congressman Joe Donnelley. "You can be at peace and do your job."

Congressman Brad Ellsworth echoed the sentiment, telling the soldiers and their families that his door is always open and reminded them that there were funds available to help if times get tough.

Seventeen-year-old Pvt. Kaleb Bluebaugh, the youngest member of Greencastle's 2nd Battalion, 150th Field Artillery watched Wednesday's ceremony and reflected, with pride, on the tradition he hopes one day to join.

"I joined knowing this is a reality," he said. "I hope we get this kind of ceremony when I go."

Glancing over the 3,400 soldiers and more than 20,000 friends and family members, he added, "It's an honor to even be in their presence."

After nearly two hours of emotionally charged speeches from military brass and elected officials, Gov. Mitch Daniels presented each member of the Brigade's combat seasoned leadership with an Indiana state flag. For several minutes, total silence pervaded the Dome. Finally, a single voice shouted, from the upper deck and echoed off the massive ceiling: "I love you Bradley."

Since Sept. 11, 2001, 13,000 Indiana National Guard soldiers have been deployed domestically or abroad, and according to Lt. Col. John Newman, Indiana soldiers represent the fourth largest contingent of National Guard troops serving in Iraq.

The U.S. Department of Defense reports that as of Dec. 31, 2007, 3,895 U.S. soldiers have been killed in the Iraq war, which began in March 2003.

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"We will do whatever needs to be done to take care of your families," said Congressman Joe Donnelley. "You can be at peace and do your job."

yeah sure......like your bill from march still sitting dead in the swamp????????

101st Abn Div. (AirAssault) "Rendezvous With Destiny!" "Night Stalkers/Phoenix Flight" For Buddy...who lived it! Whiskey for my men and beer for my horses! H.A.L.O!, 5th Grp., MACV-SOG, 160th AVN Grp., DeathFromAbove,VFW(al), ALegion(al)

-- Posted by phoenix22 on Sat, Jan 5, 2008, at 9:12 AM

God speed...come home safe! Thanks for serving.

-- Posted by klskgermany on Mon, Jan 7, 2008, at 11:25 AM

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