This is the first time since World War II that a Texas National Guard Infantry has been deployed to a combat zone. But before Monday's public send off at the Civic Center, the soldiers from the 142nd infantry regiment make last-minute preparations. NewsChannel 11 spent the day with the soldiers before they leave for Fort Hood for months of training.
"It does affect everybody. It's not just the spouses and the children, it's also the fathers, the brothers, sisters, or even a friend that someone knows that's being deployed," says Sergeant Von Theumer. That's why preparing to send off 200 Lubbock soldiers with pride is so important to the city. "A lot of these soldiers, of course, have been deployed before so it's not their first deployment. There's that anticipation, that anxiety," he says.
But for many soldiers this is a first, like Specialist Hernandez, one of only five females of the unit leaving. "There's that chance that I might not come back. There's that chance that it's hard for some of us. We have to face that reality. We're here to do a job," she explains.
Kathy Grant, whose husband will also leave for Iraq, has started a support group for the families of soldiers from the regiment. She relies on the other families for strength. "We just try to spend every minute we can together," says Grant.
She adds that Monday's tribute is just another way the people of Lubbock will show their love and support. "The support has just been fabulous. We appreciate it," she says.
"The community supports us, I mean, that's the most proudest moments for us and especially telling us goodbye. That means a lot to us, and thank you," says Specialist Hernandez.
The public send-off starts Monday at 6:00 p.m. in the Civic Center Banquet Hall. Monday's event will include a recorded message from Coach Knight and a performance by Jay Boy Adams. The tribute is expected to last about an hour, then the soldiers and their families will have a private meal.