WILKES-BARRE -- A group of family and friends gathered at the 109th Field Artillery Armory on Sunday to say goodbye at a "send-off" observance for a group of about 200 Pennsylvania Army National Guardsmen who are leaving for a one-year deployment to Kuwait.
The deployment service was held in conjunction with the unit's 62nd Annual Memorial Service to commemorate the 109th troops who have fallen in action during the outfit's 236-year history.
"One of the Army's core values is selfless service," said Capt. Cliff Morales. "A year deployment is the embodiment of that value and touches every soldier and their family in many different ways."
Morales said "family readiness groups" composed of previously deployed soldiers and their families and friends are available to help local families deal with the stresses and issues arising from a service member's lengthy absence.
"The members of this deployed group are leaving on a security force mission," Morales said, "and as part of this mission, they face a continuing security threat."
A part of the 109th memorial service, Lt. Col. Scott Mathna addressed the gathering assembled in front of the armory, noting the many servicemen who died in all of our country's conflicts dating back to the Revolutionary War.
"During World War II, the Wyoming Valley's own regiment earned five more Battle Streamers," Mathna said. "The actions of the 109th in The Battle of the Bulge were particularly heroic, as the field artillery, in direct support of the 110th Infantry Regiment, held off the attack of three German Panzer divisions for two days (suffering significant casualties).
"Many of the deploying soldiers said they can sense the feeling of anxiety among their families as the day of their departure nears. I've been a member of the National Guard for 30 years," said 1st Sgt. Albert Rivera of Plains Township, who will be serving a second deployment. "Over the last several days, I noticed a discernible difference in my children. More hugs and kisses and shared looks. It's definitely meant a lot to me to have the constant support of my family. They will be missed."