July 22, 2006--Posted at 3:30 pm CDT
Jonesboro- On the bus are mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles, but they are also all American soldiers.
They are members of the 875th Engineer Battalion leaving from Jonesboro and Paragould on Saturday for an 18 month deployment.
Their first stop is Wisconsin.
They will train there for two to three months.
Then, they will go to Iraq.
It's a bittersweet day for these American soldiers.
They are leaving behind one family, to join in the fight for freedom with another.
Another soldier, Stephen Thomas says, "I'm not by myself. I've got my whole company behind me. I've got friends and family. I am not by myself."
Symbols of freedom, and displays of patriotism decorate Region 8.
Lt. Col. Patrica Anslow says, "It's a tremedous feeling to get this kind of send off and this much support going in."
Thomas adds, "It makes me feel great. I'm glad everyone is standing behind us 100% on everything. I'm glad everyone has shown up, like our families, and supports us."
Matt Hall says, "The support means everything--it's just overwhelming."
A message to these soldiers that says while you are gone, take comfort in knowing you are certainly not forgotten.
Lanafae Stephens proudly waves her flag as the soldiers ride by.
"We're sitting right there with you. We're going to be right there with you on your trip. Our hearts are going to be with you. Remember why you are doing this. We'll take care of everything back here," said Stephens.
Kathy Hall is just one of many mothers saying goodbye to their child.
"Lots of tears and hugs. I wrote him a letter to tell him what I have always thought of him, and how proud I am of him", says Hall.
She's a mother making sure her son knows how proud he's making their family.
Hall recalls, "I woke up my little granddaughter this morning and said you know we have to go send off Uncle Matt so we can sleep free at night, and rest in peace. We're so fortunate here."
As they leave for duty, they are met with warm wishes and heartfelt prayers for a successful mission, and a safe return.
A sister to one of the soldiers, Becky Yeargain says, "I just want to say that everyone loves you in your communities, and we support you."