500 Soldiers Deploying Overseas, Families Staying Strong

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POSTED: Friday, December 9, 2011 - 5:40pm

UPDATED: Friday, December 9, 2011 - 11:40pm

FORT BLISS - After the deaths of three Fort Bliss Soldiers in Afghanistan, nearly 500 soldiers are set to deploy overseas.

The soldiers will spend a year in Southwest Asia. They'll provide air defense for "Operation Enduring Freedom."

"I think this is a great opportunity. This is what we get called upon to do, and this is what we train hard for. I look forward to these soldiers getting the opportunity to show the world they've been training, and they're prepared," Battalion Commander Lt. Col. James Ellerson said.

Soldiers say they're staying in good spirits, despite leaving on the eve of a tragedy and so close to the holidays. They're simply looking forward to serving the country. Although, as you can imagine, it's still a difficult time for families.

"She really doesn't understand what deployment is, so when I tell her 'daddy's going bye, bye,' she's like 'well, when's daddy coming back,'" Jacqueath Gaines said.

It's not only hard for Gaines 3-year old daughter to understand why her daddy's going away, many military families struggle to say goodbye.

"They can't stay here because they have a mission to accomplish. So, they have to be out there helping all the soldiers and helping all the other families so everybody comes back safely," Gaines said.

Gaines is great at staying positive about deployment, because she also helps other soldiers' families.

"I'm like a shoulder for them to lean on," she said.

Gaines is part of a family support network on post.

"I do get a lot of phone calls of people crying and saying they don't want their family members to go anywhere. I have to re-assure them that they're going to be fine," Gaines said.

Every military family hopes and prays for a soldiers safe return, but too many families know that's not always the case. As we mentioned, three Fort Bliss soldiers were killed in action overseas just six days ago.

"Well, there's a bunch of mixed emotions," Command Sergeant Major George Eddie Clark Jr. said.

Clark Jr. is also deploying with the other soldiers. He says the best way to honor soldiers lost is to move forward.

"We honor those soldiers that paid the ultimate sacrifice, and we do not allow, soldiers do not allow, that to stop them from doing what they're called to do, because the nation depends on them," he said.

As for the military families staying here in the Borderland, they rely on monthly meet-ups from the support network to cope with deployment.

"They get their minds off where their spouse or their mom and dad is," Gaines said.

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May God protect our Soldiers and their families. The wars have dragged on for much too long.

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