COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - On Saturday, about 190 men and women began a deployment to Afghanistan just days after President Trump called for a boosted American military effort in Afghanistan.
The South Carolina National Guard hosted their family members and friends for a ceremony Saturday morning. The deployment was scheduled about a year ago.
"Our job's never easy," Lieutenant Colonel Brian Pipkin said. "No, especially when you're faced with what we're doing, going into Afghanistan, it's going to be a tough job."
After departing from McEntire Joint National Guard Base in Eastover, the troops will head to Fort Hood in Texas before deploying to Afghanistan.
"As you know, they are pumping more troops back into the region, which also increases your need for additional air coverage," Sergeant First Class Andy Goza said.
Goza will be leading some of that air coverage using Apaches. Meanwhile, his wife, Mims, will await his return like she's done before.
"Last time he was gone, my cell phone became another appendage because I never knew when he was going to call and never knew when I was going to get an e-mail or a text or FaceTime or any of that," Mims explained. "I mean, even taking a shower without my cell phone on my arm was nerve-racking, because I didn't want to miss it."
This time will be different for both of them, however. Andy will have not only his wife on his mind but also their 10-month daughter Ava.
"He's going to miss a lot of the milestones she's going to accomplish in this next year while he's out," Mims said.
But, even as the reality of this bittersweet gathering sets in, Andy and the others still stand strong. As do the spouses and children they leave behind.
Perhaps the best motivation of all is to come home safe.
"Please just pray for us. Pray for the families," Mims said through tears. "Pray for the guys as they go overseas and they fight for us. They fight for our freedom. They fight four our country. And they fight for us."
The deployment is expected to last about a year.