Sunday morning’s sendoff ceremony was especially tough for the children of the soldiers in the 451st Expeditionary Sustainment Command.
Tears streaked many of their cheeks as their moms and dads – about to leave Wichita to deploy overseas – hoisted them into their arms.
Most husbands, wives and parents tried to stay strong, at least until they hugged their loved ones. Then the tears came.
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The soldiers officially left town Sunday morning headed for Fort Hood. From there, the unit will deploy this spring to Kuwait for about a year.
For some soldiers, this was their first deployment.
For others, like Sgt. 1st Class Michael Heuertz, this was a repeat trip.
But something was different about this deployment, Heuertz said.
“This sendoff ceremony has been by and large the best I’ve ever been involved with in the Army,” he said. “Wichita has been the pinnacle of support.”
Heuertz, who lives in Nebraska with his wife and two children, said the support his family has received from the 451st will “help ease things.”
“My first deployment, I was single; my second deployment, I was married; now my third deployment, I’m married and have two kids,” he said. “It’ll be tough, but the support we’ve received will help them and give me peace of mind, which will prime me to accomplish the mission.”
Congressman Mike Pompeo, 451st Brig. Gen. Bruce Hackett and Maj. Gen. Mark Palzer spoke at the sendoff, which was at Intrust Bank Arena.
After the ceremony, American Legion motorcycle riders, each equipped with an American flag, escorted the 451st’s vehicles out of the arena.
Families lined Waterman to Emporia to wave goodbye to their loved ones, some still crying in the Sunday morning cold.
It is the first time the 451st Expeditionary Sustainment Command has deployed since it was reactivated in Wichita in 2011.
Editor’s note: The 451st Expeditionary Sustainment Command is an Army Reserve unit deploying overseas in 2016 for the first time since its activation in Wichita five years ago. Eagle reporter Matt Riedl is following the unit’s deployment process throughout the year.