ELYRIA, Ohio -- Members of the Ohio Army National Guard are being deployed. The first of two send-offs was filled with fanfare and some fear, as these soldiers are about to embark on what could be a dangerous mission.
Military families filled the Stocker Center on Friday for a Call to Duty Ceremony. About 100 members of the Ohio Army National Guard's 837th Engineer Company, based in Lorain, are being deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
"America's strength is found in the willingness of these citizen soldiers, to make the personal sacrifices to defend our nation,” Major General Deborah Ashenhurst told the crowd.
The unit is headed to Afghanistan. Their mission is to make sure roads are safe. They will be looking for IEDs, or improvised explosive devices. Their commander calls these soldiers men of action.
"As always, critics are ready to give advice and make corrections, but never ready to pick up a rifle, climb in a vehicle, clear the way of IEDs, and if needed, close in and kill the enemy,” Captain Chad Apple said.
For the military families, the deployment brings a mix of emotions. Julie Ness of Canton is proud of her son, but a little worried, too.
"It's just hard having him away. But, you know they are doing the job that needs to be done,” she said.
The Graf family of North Royalton welcomes one son back from Afghanistan, only to see another one sent there.
John Graf recently returned from his tour of duty.
"Some of the people there, they want us to be there. Some not so much. He just has to watch his back and watch his battle buddies,” Graf said about his brother’s deployment.
This tour of duty is expected to last a year.
"Try to finish this war up and finish what we have to do over there,” soldier Joe Ness said.
A community send-off for the soldiers is planned for Monday, the day the unit will actually deploy.
They will leave the National Guard Armory at Grove Avenue and State Route 57 at 1 p.m.