State News

Thousands bid farewell as National Guard brigade heads to Iraq

Posted April 14, 2009

— Thousands of people packed the Crown Coliseum Tuesday to say goodbye to one of the last combat units headed to Iraq.

Nearly six years after the U.S. invaded Iraq, friends and family members bid farewell to about 3,800 members of the North Carolina National Guard's 30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team.

Web only: Iraq-bound Guard unit bids farewell Web only: Iraq-bound Guard unit bids farewell

"There are 9.5 million people in this state who are mighty, mighty grateful for what you do," Gov. Beverly Perdue said. "You answered the call from America to serve in global missions, and yet when I pick up the phone because of an emergency here in North Carolina, you come and answer that phone call (too)."

Secretary of the Army Pete Geren noted the brigade also deployed to Iraq in 2004, when it spent more than a year overseas.

"In the mean time, you've responded to our nation's calls all over this country. You answered our nation's call (after) Hurricane Katrina (and) Hurricane Hannah," Geren said.

Sgt. Billy Southern is making his first deployment with the brigade.

"It's important for every soldier," Southern said as he held his young daughter. "I've wanted to be in the military my whole life. I've been in (the National Guard) almost 14 years now, and I finally get to do my job."

Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey and members of Congress also praised the brigade, dubbed "Old Hickory," during the two-hour ceremony.

The brigade is headquartered in Clinton and includes a battalion from West Virginia and a company from Colorado. The part-time soldiers spent the past several weeks undergoing intensive training at Fort Irwin, Calif.

"You have to make sacrifices sometimes," Spc. Aaron Gross said. "Our families are proud of us, and you've got to do what you've got to do."

Spc. Justin Davis said the deployment would mark the first time he and his new wife have been separated.

"She's doing good. Once the breaking news got to her, after three or four months it got better," Davis said.

So many people tried to attend the ceremony that scores of families were shut out and had to watch the ceremony on video screens in the neighboring Expo Center. The coliseum has a seating capacity of 9,600.

"If you know that you have 4,000 soldiers coming, you know there's going to be family members coming with those soldiers. Why don't you get a bigger building?" well-wisher Brittney Fields said.

N.C. National Guard brigade bound for Iraq N.C. National Guard brigade heading to Iraq

Those who made it inside the coliseum held up signs that said "Go With Our Love" and "We'll Miss You Daddy."

Capt. Jeff Cashion, a Charlotte police officer and the father to Taylor, 6, and Jeffrey, 8, will make his first deployment.

"It's been busy, very busy the last four months training, and busy on the home front, getting everybody prepared to go," Cashion said.

Kristina Cashion said she's still trying to get her mind around the idea of not having her husband around for a year.

"It's one that I never thought I'd experience, but we're so proud and happy and sad," she said. "It's all of these emotions at the same time."

Sgt. Spencer Wells' wife drove from Colorado to see him off. The Denver-area business consultant and the father of two boys was making his first deployment.

"I don't think you can every be 100 percent prepared. I think it's day by day, and you take it in small steps," Wells said.

President Barack Obama has ordered most U.S. troops pulled out of Iraq by Aug. 31, 2010, meaning the N.C. National Guard unit will be among the last to make a one-year deployment.

Members of the 82nd Airborne Division's 4th Brigade Combat Team also will deploy overseas in the coming weeks. The team is headed to Afghanistan as part of Obama's move to increase the U.S. presence there.

The troops, who are training in Louisiana, spent 15 months in Afghanistan during a previous deployment.


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  • threeboysmom1959 Apr 16, 2009

    We are the family of a Soldier Deploying with the 30th! I was at the deployment ceremony. It was terribly organized! After talking with several people I came to understand that the last time they deployed it was fromt he RBC Center in Raleigh, NC! Now there's an would have held us ALL! The traffic was terrible at 8:30 A.M. when we arrived. However, I do give kudos to my Family Readiness Group who sent us info well in adavnce. We knew ahead of time that the doors would open to family at 9:15 with activities. I am sorry that was not the case for everyone. "Family First" was not at the heart of this ceremony. We are praying for a safe return for all our Soldiers! Thank you all for your service and may God return you home to your loved ones! To our Son, we are so proud of you and so thankful for you! Godspeed to you Travis! We Love You and Prayerfully await your RETURN to US!

  • thelewisclan Apr 15, 2009

    Having been an FRG previously (not with this unit), I know how hard most of them work. There are some that do it for the wrong reasons, but I can't blame them here. The entire send-off of this unit has been disorganized at best. If the NCNG knew they had at least 3600 soldiers in attendence, plus figure at least 2 people per soldier in attendance - that right there is
    over 10,000. I would be interested in hearing them comment on why they picked a venue that couldn't begin to hold the crowd they SHOULD have expected. But taking care of the families isn't what they ever excel at anyway - I wouldn't expect this to be any different. And I can't believe some of the people that had NO business being there (simply photo ops)didn't
    give up their seats for Soldiers children..yep, we support you,give credit to your long as you don't actually expect us to make good on our words and let you say goodbye instead of get our 15 minutes. Thinking of all our fellow NG families-God bless.

  • WRALcensorsforIslam Apr 15, 2009

    I was present from 10 yesterday morning til the ceremony was over. Let's be careful who we point fingers at for the screw ups at that going away ceremony. The North Carolina National Guard messed up, this should have been done in Raleigh at the ESA or at the Convention Center. There would have been more seats, a more professional staff, and a facility that isn't a complete dump. The staff at the Coliseum in Fayetteville was rude and the behavior was outrageous. This was an emotional day for the families and the staff there could not have been uglier in their conduct. Families were stuck outside in the rain while Coliseum staff were going outside, getting food from the Red Cross intended for the GI's families, and bringing it back inside to eat themselves. Those of us inside could not go out to the food service areas or we'd have been locked out. I have a picture of Crown Coliseum staff sitting amid a pile of empty Red Cross food containers. Kudos to the city of Fayetteville.

  • hywilson Apr 15, 2009

    I was there yesterday and was able to get in. It was very disheartening to see the way families were being treated. And then WHY did they have all those politicians there that dont care anything about those men and women. I found it rather embarassing b/c yes there were 4000 troops there but not all of them were from NC, there was a group from WV and CO, what were those families thoughts on such a well-planned ceremony*sarcasim* in NC.

    God Speed to my Bro-in-law and all the others leaving. Thank you for your service!

  • JustOneGodLessThanU Apr 15, 2009

    Can people not see that armies on both sides of this war both pray to their gods to protect them? Can people not see that "god" is why terrorists do what they do? THAT is why I ask what good does prayer do... Besides, with 30,000+ children starving to death every day on this planet, he (she or it) is either powerless or uncaring. Either way, not worthy of wasting any time on, much less worshipping. IMO.

  • JustOneGodLessThanU Apr 15, 2009

    Ripcord, please don't belittle the service of so many brave soldiers by discounting their contribution to our country (sometimes by paying the ultimate sacrifice). There are MANY of Atheists in foxholes. Here's just one website:

    So, our Atheist soldiers await your apology...

  • just my2cents Apr 15, 2009

    My son leaves tomorrow, his unit is already in Fort Hood, he was allowed to stay behind for the birth iof his first child, now 1 week old. Godspeed to all of our heroes, come home safely.

  • Bozo652002 Apr 15, 2009

    But that said, I am praying for them daily.

  • Bozo652002 Apr 15, 2009

    I got in, but it was sickening how many politicians only wanted a photo op. That's why I avoided d&p shows like the plague when I was in.

  • starglow2005 Apr 14, 2009

    I felt really sad for the seven year old girl I saw crying on a news video because she couldn't get in to see her daddy.... it was heartbreaking for those families that could not get in to see their loved ones.