Family Members Say Farewell To Oklahoma Soldiers During Ceremony

Saturday, June 30th 2012, 9:16 pm
By: News On 6

Members of Oklahoma National Guard's 120th Engineer Battalion are heading to Afghanistan this week. But first they had a chance to hear some words of encouragement at a farewell ceremony on Saturday, June 30.

It was a grand farewell ceremony for a battalion that's making its first trip to Afghanistan.

"I think the soldiers are ready," said Maj. Gen. Myles Deering, Oklahoma's Adjutant General. "They've been working hard getting ready and preparing themselves for this mobilization."

On Tuesday, more than 200 soldiers from Oklahoma's 120th Engineer Battalion will leave their families behind to help the Afghan National Army.

"It's hard," said 1SG Kevin Lasiter, 120th Engineer Battalion. "It's just hard."

This is Lasiter's second time deploying, but his first time doing so while having a wife and kids. His wife Tonya says it'll be tough, but she's prepared herself and their children.

"I've taught them to be strong independent young women and we will prevail," said Tonya. "We will do this. We will be making sacrifices just like they're making sacrifices."

Some soldiers say the hard part isn't protecting the war front, but wondering what's happening on the home front. For Lieutenant Colonel Jack Ritter it's even tougher preparing his three children for what's about to come.

"It's always hard to get them ready, especially the younger they are," said Lieutenant Colonel Ritter, 120th Engineer's Commander. "The harder they take it or the harder it is on them or maybe it's the harder it is on me the younger they are."

Families say it's hard to see their soldiers leave, but they know it's all for a purpose.

"It is difficult to let him go, but you sit there with a great heart," said Karen Martin, a soldier's mother-in-law. "You sit there with swelling pride."

On Tuesday, the soldiers will start their mobilization process. Then on Friday, they will head to Fort Bliss in Texas. From there, they'll make the journey to Afghanistan.

They are expected to return home in nine months.