A bittersweet Mother's Day for airmen departing for Middle East

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Bear hugs, tearful cheeks and hands held tight described the not so typical Mother's Day for the estimated 100 airmen departing for Middle East Sunday.

They left from Trent Lott Air National Guard Training Center in Gulfport to serve our country in the Persian Gulf.

It's part of the 255th Air Control Suadron's six month mission. The squadron has been training for years for the mission.

For single mother of four Staff Sergeant Jessica Green, it wasn't the Mother's Day she had planned.

"It's not the present I wanted. But, if it's going away to defend my family and my country. I'll take it," said Green.

Like most mothers, Green remained strong for her family. But make no mistake, leaving behind the four parts of the heart wasn't easy.

"I'm going to tell them I'm going to be safe, don't worry about me and I'll be home in November for some turkey," said Green.

She wasn't alone. Hundreds gathered for the opening ceremony leading up to the squadron's departure.

"I love you, daddy," said young Brighton Raymond to his father.

"What I'm doing is really for them and without me going forward somebody has to," said Airman Jay Raymond.

"We've done this before. So, they know what to do, and they're in good hands back home," said Master Sergeant Dwayne Nowell. "Just make sure everything is taken care of and a lot of hugs."

"Our mission is essentially to protect the Arabian Gulf and this unit has been training for this for years," said Commander Berry McCormick.

He will be leading squadron 255 in the Middle East.

After the ceremony, everyone went to the hangar to share every last moment with their loved ones.

Hugs were given between mothers and sons. Kisses were shared between newly weds.

Dads held their children in their arms, knowing their kids' tiny features will be different in half of a year.

"It's what we're here to do. I joined the military to serve my country and it's what I'm here to do," said Staff Sergeant Christopher Hutchens.

It's a choice they made, but that doesn't mean they wanted to leave their family. Loading the plane, they understood it's a sacrifice they're willing to make.

"It's really quite amazing the level of dedication. The level of camaraderie that this young group has," said Commander McCormick.

The plane departed. Loved ones waved and blew kisses in the wind, knowing this was not goodbye. Rather, see you soon.

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