The Minnesota National Guard held four hometown departure ceremonies Monday for troops deploying to the Middle East.
The 1st Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division — known as the Red Bulls ‐ are sending 2,400 members to Kuwait to assist with the drawdown of U.S. forces from Iraq. The troops will first train at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin and then go to Kuwait this summer.
Ceremonies in Mankato, Luverne, Rochester and Pipestone drew hundreds of people.
At the Rochester ceremony, Alicia Harris, 21, said goodbye to her husband, Spc. Mitch Harris, 24. The two married a month ago and have a 9-month-old daughter.
"I'm nervous, scared. Just trying to stay positive 'cause I know if I'm just miserable, it's not going to go by fast," Harris said. "If I just stay positive hoping the time goes by, that's about it."
The Memorial Day ceremony in Rochester drew several hundred people, including Gary Schwirtz, 62, whose 29-year-old son Michael is deploying with the Rochester-based 2nd Battalion, 135th Infantry.
Gary Schwirtz said even though he's a veteran himself, it's always tough to see a child deploy.
"I didn't mind going places myself, but it's a different story when your son goes," Schwirtz said. "You worry about them more than you did yourself."
From Kuwait, troops will provide security and run convoys into Iraq. Several years ago, the same brigade served the longest combat tour of any military unit in the Iraq War.
The Guard has five more local departure ceremonies scheduled around Minnesota through June 3.