Friends and families of approximately 650 Massachusetts National Guard members gathered at the TD Garden this morning for a send-off ceremony that launched the soldiers' one-year deployment to missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Today's deployment comes on the heels of President Barack Obama's announcement last month that 30,000additional American troops would be sent to Afghanistan. It is also the largest single deployment undertaken since September 2001, according to Massachusetts National Guard Major Gen. Joseph C. Carter, the adjutant general.
"While approximately 7,500 Massachusetts National Guard members have deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere since September 2001, in the coming year the Massachusetts National Guard will deploy 3,700 members in support of operations Iraqi [Freedom] and Enduring Freedom," Carter said in a speech to the crowd. "This dramatic increase symbolizes not only the nature of overseas war operations but also the importance of the National Guard in defending the safety and security of our nation and the world."
Governor Deval Patrick thanked the soldiers for "answering your country's call."
"We pause with you and your families at the dawn of a new decade and a new mission to honor your service to our nation and to our Commonwealth," Patrick said. "As you leave Massachusetts, know that there are 6 million people in this Commonwealth who have got your back."
This will be the second overseas tour for Staff Sergeant Dan Bertrand, 28, stationed at the 101 Field Artillery out of Brockton. In 2004 he was deployed to Iraq and now he said he will be going to Afghanistan.
"I can't wait to go. It's a purpose, you know?" said Bertrand, of Lynn. "When you go and you do some of the things that we've done, in certain situations that we've been in, and come back home you kind of feel that purpose. A lot of the decisions that you make over there are life or death, so you feel like you have a higher purpose."
Members of the National Guard's 164th Transportation Battalion will provide heavy equipment transport services in Iraq, while the 1st Battalion, 101st Field Artillery and the Regional Corps Assistance Group will be provide support, mentoring, and advice on operations and training to the Afghan police and army.
The deploying unit armories are based out of Brockton, Danvers, Quincy, Fall River, Dorchester, Hingham, Framingham, Worcester, and Milford.
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