A bittersweet send-off for Gulfport National Guard unit

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Patriotism and love of country was on full display in a normally quiet hanger. So was prayer. So were the words of praise for 1108 Tasm-G Mississippi National Guard unit's Middle East mission.

"This group is just one of only four of its kind in the in the nation and performs a critical service to our warfighters," Mississippi Adjutant General Major General William Freeman Jr. said.

This mission includes repairing helicopters that are used in the war effort. It's also a mission that offers something even more important.

"What we try and do as an aviation community is provide transportation to those ground troops. And the support so they don't have to have minimal convoy operations and things where they are subjected to the enemies efforts," Col. Rob Berry is the1108 Tasm-G commander said.

Congressman Steven Palazzo is a national guard member himself. He said he knows firsthand what is about to happen.

"I know the sacrifices that you in uniform make but also the sacrifices and heartache that your families feel that are left at home and I carry that with me in Washington D.C. every day," Palazzo said.

The signs of that sacrifice are seen everywhere, mothers holding their soon to be missed children, fathers doing the same and hands held tightly in support of each other.

While the men and women of this national guard unit are proud of the work they do, and are eager for deployment overseas to help in the war on terror, it's not surprising what the hardest thing about that deployment really is.

"Leaving your family. I got two little ones, two and three. I've got a great wife and additional family members," Staff Sgt. Donald Phillips said.

Despite that hardship, everyone of the soldiers left no doubt that they are up for the job, no matter how long it takes.

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