As many as 750 people came out to the Civic Center Saturday afternoon, for the "America Supports You" cookout and send off. On Monday, 175 Texas National Guard men and women from Lubbock will deploy to the Middle East. Those 750 people were catered to by as many as 30 organizations from the Sheriff's Office and the City of Lubbock, to Suddenlink and Atmos Energy. The organizations provided free food, fun and live entertainment for the crowd and most importantly for the service men, women and their families.
"We'll be leaving Lubbock this week to start our training and we'll be going overseas sometime in the late fall," said First Sergeant Michael Bland.
Bland was the commanding officer at Saturday's cookout and the upcoming deployment will be his second tour. He says the second is really harder than the first for the families. But, he adds, thank goodness for technology.
"The soldiers have ways to communicate with their families... E-mail, mail, and telephone so that helps ease the pain of the separation," said Bland.
"This is my mom, Christina Cameron and this is her second deployment also, I guess you could say," said Specialist Christopher Neal who is also gearing up for his second deployment.
For Neal, it's the support coming from the home front that gets him through his service time. But like First Sergeant Bland, Neal says it is harder on the families.
"Really it's just how much support we have back here... One of the things I always tell people is that deployments tend to be a lot harder on the families, the people we leave back here than they are on us. You know, I know what's going on and she's got to wait to hear the news and hear from me to know what's going on," said Neal.
And that's the purpose of the "America Supports You" organization. They support the troops and their families through the times of deployment and comfort those families who have paid the ultimate price - losing a soldier in battle.
"To know that before they go over there I think helps their morale and just helps them while their over there, plus it helps our troops to know that their family members are being taken care of," said Rhonda Williams.
Both Williams and D'Ann McGuire have lost loved ones at war and they say you don't have to like war to support the troops.
"It's a unique bond that all these people have so it's just neat to come out and be a part of it," said McGuire.
To sum up what it means to truly support someone, Specialist Neal's mom, Christian Cameron says, "He's in the palm of God's hands and I know he'll be taken care of and I just pray for him everyday and I'm proud of him... I'm very proud of him."
The "America Supports You" organization is already planning for the homecoming of these troops one year from now. Mark it down in your calendars for next July. The exact date is up in the air but the organization says after 12 months of service, a big "Texas Sized" homecoming will be exactly what these service men, women and families need.
|America Supports You|