Mississippi Guardsmen Deploy For Operation Iraqi Freedom - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Mississippi Guardsmen Deploy For Operation Iraqi Freedom

GULFPORT (WLOX) -- Specialist Kevin Gilbert is preparing to leave for his first deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

"About four of my other buddies and I agreed to come down here with this unit, so it's a big step for us," says Gilbert.

It's also been a big step for Gilbert's family.

"It's had its ups and downs, and it's been pretty tough. But, they're all understanding and very supportive," says Gilbert.  

There was an outpouring of support as loved ones sent off about 150 members of the Mississippi Guard's 890th Engineer Battallion.  In addition to the troops, guest speakers at the ceremony also expressed the importance of the supporting families left behind.

"I think it's actually harder on the families back home than the soldiers.  The soldier know that he or she is okay at what they're doing.  From the spouses perspective, not knowing is probably the most difficult part," says Lieutenant Colonel Joe Haggart.  

It's Sergeant Dennis O'Neill's second deployment overseas.

"I wanna go back; I have a job to do.  I'm not done with it yet," says O'Neill.  

Sergeant O'Neill's mother, says it's important to realize that no matter where people stand on the war, America's servicemen and women are overseas for a reason and our support is needed.  

Retiring Adjutant General Harold Cross also spoke at the ceremony.  He shared a very simple, yet important way to show servicemen and women the love and support they need.

"We're going to say two of the most underused words in the English language but perhaps the most meaningful, and that's thank you. We thank you for what you've done, thank you for what you will do and thank you for giving us an example and template of heroism."

The unit will leave Monday. This is their second deployment in support of the effort.  Their deployment is expected to last one year.

By: Krystal Allan  

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