Family members said goodbye to their soldiers as they left for the Middle East from Fort Gordon. (WRDW-TV)
News 12 at 6 o'clock / Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- It was an emotional day at Fort Gordon as nearly 300 soldiers said goodbye to loved ones.
It was one of the largest deployments Fort Gordon's ever seen. Now that the holidays are over, it's back to work for these troops as they head overseas.
It's the day many of these families have been dreading as they said goodbye for the next nine months.
"It has been emotional because it's nine months to your deployment and my son, he's 5, so he doesn't quite understand that daddy's going to be gone for a while but I'll be alright," said Veronica Bradley.
She and husband, Spc. Chase Bradley, have baby number two on the way.
"I'm due in July. We actually just found out I'm pregnant, so I'm like 11 weeks pregnant," Bradley said. "He won't be here for the birth of our second child, so that's kind of hard on him, but again, it's his job and there's Skype."
It's not the first deployment for Brianna Carter, but it may be the hardest.
"I grew up military, so I was used to it with my dad, but it's a totally different set of emotions with him," said Carter about her fiance. "It's the life they picked, and you're with them, so you have to stand by them no matter what, but it is hard and it gets very lonely."
Despite the cheerful music, 287 soldiers with the 67th Expeditionary Signal Battalion marched out, hugged their families and boarded the bus.
"Of course you're feeling a certain way about leaving your family behind, but also there's a pride and honor of going out and defending our country," explained Spc. Demontrae Dorrough.
"I think it's just nice to be a part of the ceremony just to let him know that we do support him, we wish him well and a safe return," said Angela Dorrough about her son.
The unit will be helping to set up worldwide communications in the Middle East.
"There's always a worry, no matter how safe we assure our family members we're gonna be, there's always that sense of danger because it's a reality of the job," Carter said.
"You worry about them and you try your best to keep busy and keep the kids busy and not think about it, and you find other wives or other girlfriends that are going through it so you guys can go through it together," Brianna says.
A last minute salute to the men and women who protect our freedoms. "We don't like to say goodbye, we say we'll see you later," says Veronica.
"Are you going to miss him?" News 12's Katie Beasley asked Bradley's son, Colby.
"Yes. I love you, Daddy," he replied.
This unit last deployed in August of 2009 and returned in July 2010 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.