(Host) Two dozen Vermont National Guard soldiers were deployed on Monday for eventual service in Iraq. The deployment was held at a special ceremony at the Burlington International Airport. The group will receive additional training in Mississippi before accepting their assignment to serve as military police in Iraq.
VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.
(Kinzel) Several hundred family members and friends of the Guard soldiers crowded into the upper mezzanine of the airport to say goodbye to their loved ones. Young children clung to the legs of their fathers as families hugged and said tearful farewells as friends recorded the event on camera.
General Thomas Shultz, the federal director of the Army National Guard, told the gathering that the departing soldiers are ready for their next assignment.
(Schultz) “To the families here, to the friends here, these soldiers will depart our homeland fully certified for deployment, mission ready. To each of you, we’re honored to serve by your side. Our thanks.” (Sound of applause.)
(Kinzel) Staff Sergeant Patrick Seitz is the leader of this unit.
(Seitz) “My personal thoughts are, I think a lot of people in the United States take for granted their independence. And we have the rare opportunity to earn it. That’s my opinion – I’m proud to serve.”
(Kinzel) Sergeant Scott Bevins of South Burlington says he’s ready for the mission.
(Bevins) “It’s hard leaving family and friends but it’s something that I feel I have to do. It’s an honor to be able to serve my country. Not everybody gets the opportunity to do that, so I’m comfortable with leaving.”
(Kinzel) Roger Cram’s son Michael is part of the departing unit. Cram is proud of his son and concerned about his future:
(Cram) “You know, a lot of unknowns out there, and that’s the part that bothers me. They’re going to an area that’s unsettled, but they’re a good unit. They know what they’re doing, so you just put your faith in that I guess.”
(Kinzel) Just before the unit boarded their plane, Vermont Adjutant General Martha Rainville presented them with a Green Mountain Battle Flag – a flag they’ll fly when they eventually depart for Iraq.
(Rainville) “And when you look at it and you see it flying, I want you to remember that we’re here behind you. I want you to remember who you are and where you come from and you’re serving because you’re needed. And I look forward to the day when I’ll have this flag presented back to me and I’ll be standing in front of all of you, welcoming you home. We’ll miss you. Take care of yourselves, take care of each other and fly this proudly and bring it back to me.” (Sound of applause.)
(Kinzel) For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in South Burlington.