PLYMOUTH - It was a huge send-off in Sheboygan County Saturday for 80 Wisconsin National Guard soldiers. The troops are deploying to Afghanistan for a nine-month mission.
The Plymouth-based unit has been training since March. It will leave Monday for Fort Bliss before heading overseas. But first, a warm reception from the community.
To a bit of fanfare and the well-wishes of dozens of supporters, soldiers with the Bravo Battery, 1st Battalion, 121st Field Artillery said they're ready to get to work in Afghanistan.
"They're very appreciative of all the support. They're anxious. They're ready to go," said Captain Matthew Mangerson.
After about six weeks at Fort Bliss, Texas, doing final preparations, these men will shoulder much heavier things than the drowsy head of a sleepy child.
"This is field artillery. We shoot missiles. It's about all we do," said Specialist Jeff Schultz of Clintonville.
"It's pretty exciting. I'm ready to do what I've been trained for," said Sergeant Ernaldo Guerrero of Shawano.
While soldiers said they're excited to leave, the families who gathered to say goodbye at Plymouth High School said they're anxious for their loved one's return.
"Just do it day by day. Handle it day by day," said Amanda Medina. This is her husband's third deployment. Medina gave birth to a son just three months ago. More than a dozen of their family members came to see her spouse off.
During the send-off, family readiness groups handed out care packages, complete with handmade blankets and pillows.
And it's not just the soldiers who are being taken care of. Their families said they feel like the whole community is there to lean on during the deployment.
"When you see somebody come support someone that we love so much, it's definitely something, it's not something you see every day," said Medina.
These highly-trained specialists are among the best marksmen in the entire military. But they say the pride they feel as they get ready to begin their mission doesn't stem from their elite status. It's from the friends, family, and even perfect strangers gathered in this auditorium.
"It's a great feeling. Happy to be from Wisconsin," said Schultz.
For about a dozen of the soldiers at Saturday's send-off, this marks their third deployment overseas for Operation Enduring Freedom.
The group leaves for Fort Bliss on Monday.
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