(Host) Six-hundred soldiers from the Vermont Army National Guard depart on Friday for training in Mississippi. It’s the largest deployment of Vermont National Guard members since World War II. A formal send off will be held Friday morning for the entire 172nd Armor Battalion in Northfield. But members of the battalion who are based in Rutland were honored at a separate ceremony Thursday night.
VPR’s Nina Keck was there.
(Keck) After a parade through downtown Rutland, local members of the 172nd Battalion were cheered as they marched into a packed gymnasium at the College of Saint Joseph’s. The soldiers, who range in age from 19 to 58, will be leaving Vermont for 18 months of active duty on Friday. But at Thursday night’s ceremony, they savored one last evening with friends and family. Frank Miglorie, president of the College of Saint Joseph’s, was one of the first to speak.
(Miglorie) “When I think about the sense of service and the sense of duty and the sense of mixed emotions that each one of you must have. I think it’s important for us as members of this community, as citizens of this state, affiliated with this country to tell you how much we appreciate the honorable service that you provide us all.”
(Keck) Representatives from the Mayor’s Office and the local American Legion Post reassured soldiers that the entire community would be looking out for their families.
Perhaps the most touching moment of the evening came when singer Jake Duvall sang a popular country song. Within seconds, husbands, wives and significant others came climbing down from the bleachers to enjoy one last slow dance with their departing loved one. After the dance ended, and the soldiers began to leave the gym, Carol Horton of Rutland got some hugs of support from friends. Orton’s husband, Tom Owen, was part of the Battalion she said. They got married ten days ago.
(Horton) “That was special, that’s one of my favorite songs. I am very patriotic, my father served in the Korean War, I love every one of these soldiers that fight for our country.”
(Keck) Sergeant James Beane of Proctor said after waiting so long for his orders it’s almost a relief to finally start his mission. But he said leaving his girlfriend and his kids will be hard. The ceremony and show of support meant a lot he said.
(Beane) “Absolutely, this turnout has been awesome – people on the streets, cheering us on, and being in the auditorium here. I’m usually pretty reserved with my feelings, but it really it definitely got to me.”
(Keck) A final send off for the 600 soldiers will be held Friday morning at 9 a.m. at the Norwich University field house in Northfield. At ten o’clock the troops will board a bus to Burlington and a flight to Mississippi.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Nina Keck in Rutland.