Loved ones say goodbye to Ind. troops

February 21, 2011 4:36:50 AM PST
Combat troops are no longer in Iraq, but the U.S. mission to keep the peace and support local police officers in that country is ongoing.

On Sunday, dozens of soldiers based in Gary, Ind., said goodbye as they prepare to join Operation New Dawn.

It's an emotional time for many of those saying goodbye to the men and women of the 938th Military Police Detachment of the Indiana National Guard.

"I'm very proud. I'm very emotional right now," said Carol Cardello, a relative of a deployed soldier.

Loved ones and friends cling together for support, as 23-year-old Spc. Vincent Crosley feeds his infant daughter just days before he's scheduled to leave.

"My grandparents and his grandparents are going to help and be there for me and Anna, so that helps a lot," said Vincent's wife Angelica Crosely.

Sunday's departure ceremony is for the Gary unit which is being deployed in support of Operation New Dawn, the follow up mission to Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The group of 45 will be gone for at least a year.

"That's what guardsmen do. We're here for the homeland and when our nation needs us to go overseas,"said Maj. Gen. R. Martin Umbarger, Indiana National Guard.

It's something Spc. Thaddus McMurray has been through before when he was deployed with a different unit to Afghanistan in 2009.

This time, he leaves behind his new wife and their one-month-old baby.

"She won't even notice I'm gone for the first year so I'll just be back next year and see her grow up," McMurray said.

Amid the tears of pride and gestures of love and respect is Spc. Carol Evener. She's putting her life and her job as a police officer on hold in order to serve her country.

"It's becoming a bit more real to us now that we've gone through the ceremony. I know it's coming, and I've been putting it off, but it's time to go," Evener said.

The guardsmen will actually leave on Tuesday -- that's when they will depart to Texas for about a month of training before heading to Iraq.