MOSS POINT, MS (WLOX) - Spirits ran high in Moss Point Monday night in support of the Road Warriors. The Brookhaven-based 296th Transportation Company of the Army Reserves piled off busses into a sea of family, friends and community members singing their praises for the job they're about to do. Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA" played in the background.
"We're out here to support the guys," said Doris Wilkinson, a Moss Point resident who came with her daughter to meet the company.
The company was honored with a weekend in Moss Point, organized by the Celebrations group, and a special dinner Monday night. The dinner was followed by a Waterfront Cafe concert, with live music and plenty of fellowship.
"It's an honor to be a part of the lives of so many military," said Brenda Kayramm of the Celebrations group.
These men and women say it's a livelier send off than they'd imagined.
"There have been a lot of 'thank yous,' and 'thank you for your service,'" said Warrant Officer Bart Van Buelow. "But I guess an outing like this is kind of new, so I'm not really sure how to take it yet."
Its Van Buelow's first time deploying with the Army, but he's been overseas with the Marines before. For 19-year-olds DeAngelo Clark and Whitley Ward, it will be their first time overseas.
"I didn't know that so many people felt the way they felt about the military," Clark said.
Beyond the fanfare, there was something else looming for the soldiers and their families. It's the last chance they have to spend time together before they put their lives on the line in a year-long tour in Iraq. They deploy Tuesday.
"It's hard," said Dawn Van Buelow of her husband Bart's deployment. "He's the rock, and it's very hard. He's my stability, he's my sanity."
"He's the main person of the family," chimed in their daughter Katelyn.
Organizers said it's the least they can do to show their gratitude for the sacrifices these soldiers make to defend our nation.
"I wanted to come down here and support the guys," said Gaynell Clem, a former Air Force airman. "I was in Korea for a year, and its tough being away from your family."
"[I'm] Proud of what he does, proud of everything he stands for, and gonna miss him, but proud at the same time," Dawn Van Buelow said of her husband.
The troops leave Tuesday for more training, then head straight to Iraq. They will transport heavy equipment across the desert once they arrive.
"I'm ready for whatever," Ward said.