Mississippi Guardsmen Headed Back To Iraq - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Mississippi Guardsmen Headed Back To Iraq

Pushing a stroller. Chasing after a child. When a father wears a military uniform, those loving tasks reluctantly get put on hold. And that's the hardest part for Captain Andy Ratcliffe.

"They are my heart. And I thank God everyday for them," he said while holding his daughter Anna Kate.

Ratcliffe is one of the nine members of the Army National Guard's Company I, 185th Aviation team who will fight for freedom when his unit returns to Iraq this weekend. During a Thursday morning send off ceremony, a Camp Shelby chaplain prayed for the nine braves soldiers.

"Father, we pray that you not let them leave here today without knowing that they're loved, admired, cared for and wished a speedy and safe return here," he said.

And that's the hard part. The lengthy Middle East confrontation takes fathers away from their children, and husbands away from their wives, for long periods of time.

"On one had, there is a little excitement going, because it's my first deployment," Capt. Ratcliffe said. "On the other hand, there is a lot of heartache going on because I'm going to be away from my family for an extended period of time. And that's going to be tough."

This will be Company I's second tour in Iraq. It's first mission was the first time a C-23 aircraft was used in combat. The members of Company I logged more than 6,000 hours carrying other military units and cargo into the middle of the Iraqi war zone.

Former airline pilot Mike Delia can't wait to get back.

"After I'd been there once before," Delia said, "I just wasn't ready to disengage yet."

The way Anna Kate clung to her father, she didn't appear eager to disengage either. Neither did her dad.

"I'm just looking forward to the day that I come back and I get to see them again," said Ratcliffe.

The nine soldiers leave on Saturday. They're supposed to be deployed in the Iraqi region for six months. Their base of operations will be Camp Anaconda.

By Brad Kessie

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