(Sentinel photo by Beverly Van Buskirk)
Twenty-five members of Troop C, First Squadron of the 113th Cavalry based in Le Mars are on their way to their mobilization station in Fort Lewis, Wash., as the advance party for Charlie Troop. They will be followed later this month by 135 soldiers from Troop C, all mobilized as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The soldiers will be on active duty for 18 months.
The Guard members sat among family and friends as National Guard officials, U.S. Rep. Steve King, representatives for U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley and Tom Harkin, and Le Mars Mayor Virgil Van Beek gave their words of thanks and encouragement to the troops.
"This is perhaps the most momentous day of your lives," said U.S. Congressman Steven King. "But is is also a day of conflicting emotions." "There is the emotion of departure, saying goodbye to loved ones," King continues. "but there is the emotion of being part of a mission that is bound by the common cause of freedom and of liberty."
"One cannot say he is supportive of the troops but not in support of the troop's mission. Please know that Congress is 100 percent behind and that your communities are 100 percent you," he concluded.
Gregory O. Hapgood, Jr., Lt. Co., and public affairs director for the Iowa National Guard read a statement from Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack: "Iowans have enormous respect for citizen soldiers, the Iowa National Guard. Be assured, those who have answered the call to duty, you will be coming home to a much stronger state and a much stronger nation."
Brigadier General Michael Beaman, assistant division commander of the 34th Division said he is frequently asked two questions. "People ask 'Will you have to go?' I answer 'I hope so.' Then they ask 'Why?'" The brigadier general points to a rambunctious two-year old boy squirming in his dad's arms. "I'm doing it for him. I'm doing it for his freedom."
"The toughest thing will be leaving this little guy behind," explains Braden's father, Sgt. First Class Trent Lumley.
"People have been coming up to me all day, asking if I'm scared," explains the law enforcement from Des Moines. "Tomorrow, everything will be different. But today, I'm just feeling the anticipation."
For specialist Scott Krantz, this will be his second deployment.
"I come from a military family," said the Sioux City native. "I have three brothers. One's in the Navy, one's in the Air Force, and the third one's in the Marines."
"I'm pretty excited. I guess I'm pretty pumped up for this," Krantz said softly.
PFC David Floyd is busy batting his buddies with leftover programs from the send-off ceremony. This'll be the last opportunity for such horseplay but the 20 year-old PFC from Sioux City seems to be making the best of it.
"My dad and all of my cousins from Nebraska are here today to see me off," the Western Iowa Tech student explains.
"My mom lives up in Canada. She's been calling me every single day for the past two weeks," the youthful-looking Floyd said with a chuckle. "She's worried but I keep telling I'll be okay."
"To be honest, I wasn't happy with where my life was going," he said. "I think this'll be an exciting opportunity for me to do something positive with my life."
Staff Sgt. Tyler Jelken, is a 2000 graduate of Le Mars Community High School, and is one of the squad leaders who will receive additional training at Fort Lewis, Wash., before being joined by other soldiers of Troop C.
This is his second deployment with Troop C. He returned from Kosovo in last September. His wife, Laura, and sons, Mason, 2, and one-month-old Carter, will be at their home in Sioux City waiting for him. Jelken's parents, Bryan and Faye Jelken live in Le Mars as do many other family members.
While he visited with family members Saturday, Jelken's eyes kept a close watch on his two sons. He will again miss out on the first months of watching a son grow up.
Becky Sanders of Sioux City was seeing her husband, 1st Lt. Justin Sanders, off for his second tour of duty. His first tour was to Kuwait. The couple were married in May.
"It's tough, but his family is here to support me," said Becky. She plans to stay close contact with phone calls and e-mail. "We can talk more," she said. She also plans to take advantage of the Red Cross project of making videos for the service men and women.