Deployment day for area soldiers

JOLIET, Ill. They celebrated the accomplishments of the soldiers and reluctantly bid them goodbye as they prepared to head overseas to participate in the war on terrorism in Afghanistan.

It's another deployment day for the Lowrence family. Patrick Lowrence says it doesn't get any better.

"You don't celebrate going away. You only celebrate coming back," said Sgt. Lowrence, deploying soldier.

"Not seeing him is the hard part," said Rita Rodriguez, soldier's mother.

They were just one of 180 families being honored in Thursday's deployment ceremony of soldiers of Force Protection Company A. Troop leaders said soldiers would be heading to Afghanistan to support and protect units already in the deserts of Asia.

"There is a certain designated area that we're assigned to patrol, do guard for, make sure that nobody is coming in, doing tower guard and things like that," said Specialist Paul Petersen, deploying soldier.

"The soldiers are well prepared. I don't see any problem," said Lt. Willie Spears, Force Protection Company A.

Force Protection Company A is made up from several companies within the 634th Brigade Battalion. It is because of their special training that they are being sent to fight.

"We're going to help the Afghans root out the bad guys, and they'll hopefully stay out of harm's way," said Ron Fleig, Vietnam veteran.

As family and friends gathered to wish soldiers well, they still struggled with the reality of war and sacrifice.

"We stay in contact. We stay close and keep each other going," said Veronica Daugherty, soldier's sister.

The soldiers will head to Fort Bragg for additional training for two months and then finish up in Afghanistan for their complete tour of duty, which will last 12 months.

For those determined to bring democracy to a land that's seen little peace over the ages, parting is never easy -- even if the mission is a worthy one.

These patriots know they're headed into harm's way. But as care packages of cookies and a feast fit for an army were presented after the formalities of their deployment ceremony, the reality that these people are going away for about 400 days set in.

"Responsibilities at the home front is my main concern and also going there and coming home alive and bringing back my troops alive," said Staff Sgt. Thomas Davis.

It's a sentiment coursing through the thoughts of the Lozano family. First Sgt. Richard Lozano is heading to his third deployment in the war on terror -- twice to Iraq, now to Afghanistan. And while his family worries, his priority he says has to be his fighters.

"I definitely tell them that complacency will get them in trouble every time, so we always have to be on alert and to always watch out for your battle buddy," said Lozano.

But the gray skies betrayed his family's mood. They've seen him come home safe twice. And they believe in what he's doing.

"Just taking care of everything it is hard," said wife Nikki Lozano, tearing up.

"You would be surprised how many grandparents are behind the wives because, what are you going to do without a grandparent?" said Ruth Lozano.

And a father -- a veteran of Korea -- said he hopes they're three times lucky.

"It seems like the same troops are going over back and forth, you know, we just don't have enough troops, soldiers to go around. We are the policemen of the world," said Richard Lozano, Sr.

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