As Minnesotans honor military veterans at Memorial Day gatherings around the state on Monday, more than 120 soldiers from the Minnesota National Guard are preparing for a yearlong deployment to Afghanistan.
The 257th Military Police Company ships out to Fort Bliss, Texas, on Monday, and within weeks will depart for Afghanistan. There, the soldiers will train members of the Afghan National Army to operate a prison in the northeastern part of the country.
Capt. Troy Hyland, who commands the company, says that even though it's a training mission, the deployment still carries risks.
"Whenever we leave home and go away thousands of miles away from home, there's always dangers with it," he said. "But we're well-trained. We know what we're doing, and we have a great family-type atmosphere with the people that we're going with. We're brothers and sisters that look out for each other."
Hyland says the citizen-soldiers share a common motivation.
"It's a sense of being able to give something back to the community -- giving something back to the state, giving something back to the nation," Hyland says. "You ask every individual soldier that, and that's a common thread: that we do this because we can, and we're able and willing to do this."
Hyland, a New Brighton police officer, served a tour of duty in Iraq. It will the first deployment for about two-thirds of the soldiers in the company. They are scheduled to return to the United States in the spring of 2013.