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September 23, 2011 06:05 PM

842nd Deploys to Afghanistan

The men and women of the 842nd Engineer Company said goodbye to their loved ones this morning and began the first leg of a journey that will end with a year in Afghanistan.

The 160 member company left from Black Hills State University at 8:30 this morning and saw many hugs, tears, and prayers for their safe return.

After 10 years of war, these soldiers are still willing to leave their families and friends to serve their country. For many, it's not the first time they've made that sacrifice.

"We went to Iraq and I was there for 17 months, so I'm kind of excited about a year this round," Specialist Jackie Dillock said.

Dillock deployed with a Michigan guard unit back in 2005. Regardless, she knows first hand what those who are staying behind will go through.

"I've been on both ends. I'm deploying now, but my husband deployed last year. I've done the waiting, I've been waited on and it really is just about patience and communication," Dillock said.

For others this is their first deployment.

"He knew this was a possibility. I kind of stayed in denial," Sherry Crofut said. 

Crofut's son is leaving on his first deployment, having just returned from basic training 45 days ago.

"I am so proud of him. As hard as it is to watch these boys walk out of here today I know that they're serving their country, they're doing what they signed up to do and I feel incredible pride," Crofut said.

Inside, the soldiers line up in their platoons and are given the order to load the busses.

But as they roll away from the armory, the community's show of support is only beginning. Lining Main Street are hundreds of admirers waving flags, holding signs, and cheering as the busses pass.

"Hopefully today our presence on Main Street helped those soldiers realize that we're behind them," Leesa Haugland said.

Haugland is a first grade teacher and brought her class out to see the parade. She says that one of her students has a father on the bus.

"We talked in our class about what a sacrifice our whole family was making. That he won't be here for Halloween or Thanksgiving. He won't be here for Christmas or any of the holidays until she's a second grader," Haugland said.

And in spite of the hardships that both the soldiers and their loved ones back home will face, the mood here is one of hope, that those hardships will help make the world a better place.

"These kids may not understand the sacrifice at this stage of the game, but they will," Haugland said.


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