One National Guard unit has been mobilized for a mission in the Middle East for the first time in years. Soldiers from the Valdosta area will be away from their families for at least a year and a half.
Hugs, kisses and tears marked the deployment of the Valdosta National Guard unit on Friday. These tough and highly trained soldiers say this could be the hardest part of their mission.
SSGT William Taylor, Sr. says, "It's a lot more difficult than I thought it would be; grandbabies, kids crying for mamas and daddies, and it's been kind of difficult."
From here this unit heads to California for three months of training before finally being shipped off to Iraq. Young boys say they're not afraid to admit that they're really going to miss their fathers.
Chance Long says, "He's kind and when I get in trouble or do something wrong, he keeps it to me and him, just me and him."
As these busses roll out of Valdosta, these National Guardsmen have one message left for their families here at home, and it's a strong message they hope will last until they return.
SPC Aubruy Perry says, "My message to my family is that I love them and I'll be there for them spiritually and anyway I can be there. Support us, stay strong and we're coming home."
Taylor adds, "We're going to support each other and with the support we're getting from the city of Valdosta, we'll be back home as soon as we can."