Local News

With Tears and Ceremony, Bragg Sends Another Group of Troops to Iraq

Posted May 17, 2007 8:59 p.m. EDT
Updated May 18, 2007 11:42 a.m. EDT

— As Congress and the White House argue over how to fund the war in Iraq, another 300 soldiers left Fort Bragg on Thursday for the war zone.

Any deployment can be tough, but some of the men and women were going back for a third tour of duty, which can make saying goodbye even tougher.

Many of the children at Thursday’s send off at Pope Air Force Base weren't born when the war began. Others are just beginning to learn about the life of their parents.

Maj. Shawn Hawkins held his first baby, Elizabeth, 3 months old, as he waited to board a plane for his third trip to the region.

“Two years total time, and this will make it 3 ½,” he said as he cradled Elizabeth on his lap.

Preparing to deploy is also a day of ceremony.

The flag of the 507th Corps Support Group was furled and wrapped. It will make the trip this time because the unit’s commander, Brig. Gen. Kevin Leonard, is among the soldiers deployed.

Leonard knows the sadness deployment can bring, but he is convinced his troops are prepared.

“I didn't see anyone here today with their head down, discouraged, feeling sorry for themselves. Every one of these soldiers is self-actualized, ready to go do their mission, take care of themselves, take care of the mission and take care of each other,” Leonard said.

“I joined the army to do as I'm told, and I’ll always do and continue to do the fight. Whenever it’s time to go home, then that’s the time to go home,” said Jonathan Turner, a member of the 507th.

Turner's wife, Christina, a former Marine, is pregnant. She and her two children will wait patiently and pray for her husband's safety everyday.

“Sometimes I'm OK, and then a second later, I'm bawling my eyes out. But, the sooner he gets there, the sooner he can get back home,” Christina Turner said.

The majority of the troops are headed to Baghdad, though close to 50 will serve in Kuwait.