Thousands Support National Guard At Farewell Ceremony - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

12/22/04

Thousands Support National Guard At Farewell Ceremony

Nearly 4,000 National Guard troops from the Mississippi 155th will soon be headed to Iraq.

Those citizen soldiers received a heartfelt send off Wednesday at Camp Shelby from several thousand friends, family members and supporters.

Governor Haley Barbor hailed the national guard troops as "patriots and heroes". Military leaders told the crowd the soldiers are confident, competent and ready to do their duty.

Nearly four thousand troops prepared for inspection before the formal ceremony.

"These soldiers will shortly deploy to Iraq, to ensure the security of the United States and its allies," the National Guard emcee told the crowd.

Military leaders commended the troop's preparedness and assured the soldiers they will be protected.

"And you'll have every vehicle, one hundred percent of those vehicles that roll with you, north across the border into Iraq from Kuwait will be up-armored. One hundred percent," said Mississippi Adjutant General, Harold Cross.

Governor Haley Barbour joined generals from the Army and National Guard to inspect the troops. The commander in chief shared the sentiments of a grateful Mississippi.

"You will find that from one end of this state to another, Mississippians proud of what you're doing and grateful for your service and indeed for your sacrifice," Governor Barbour told the soldiers.

Marching troops gave grateful Mississippians a chance to show appreciation.

Family hugs following the ceremony reminded soldiers how much they'll be missed.

"We'll do what we've got to do. We're going over there to support the Iraqi government. Stand them up and make them free and support themselves," said Patrick Coleman, who's from Big Point in Jackson County.

Mike Thornton savored the family reunion. The year long deployment follows months of training.

"We're going to be so busy. That will go by fast. The families are the ones that it's really going to be hard on." Thornton admitted.

His sisters spoke about the mixed emotions family members are feeling.

"Elation. Sadness. Looking forward to the future for 12 months to be over quickly. And everybody come home safe and sound," they said.

The National Guard troops will now enjoy a short break. They'll spend Christmas with loved ones before returning on January 2nd, then heading for Iraq.

By Steve Phillips

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