HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (AP) - Jessica Faulkner didn’t try to hold back her tears.
The mother of Pvt. Dustin Faulkner was saying goodbye to her 19-year-old son as the 115th Expeditionary Signal Battalion of the National Guard was honored at a deployment ceremony at Huntsville High School. More than 1,000 people attended the Saturday afternoon send-off.
“From the first day of kindergarten to high school graduation, you never expect this,” said Jessica Faulkner, a Sheffield resident. “He’s my hero.”
More than 300 members of the Decatur-based unit left for a couple months of more training at Fort Hood, Texas, before leaving for an undisclosed base in the Middle East.
It is the third deployment in the past 13 years for the 115th. In 2004, the unit was deployed to Iraq. In 2012, the unit was sent to Afghanistan.
Dustin Faulkner, a 2016 graduate of Deshler High, said when he signed up for the Guard last year he didn’t expect to be leaving north Alabama so soon.
“I expected another year maybe before we were deployed,” the Muscle Shoals resident said. “But we’re ready to go. We’re trained. I will stay focused and know as a unit, we’ll become a closer group.”
He said he will miss his family the most.
Spec. Joshua Bosha said just leaving will be a life-changer for him.
“I’ve never been in a jet before,” said the four-year National Guardsman from Birmingham. “I’ve been on a roller coaster, that’s about the closest thing to a jet, but I don’t think that counts. And I’ve never been to Texas. I’m about to experience a lot of firsts in my life.”
Sgt. Todd Foster of Spring Valley isn’t leaving his entire family in north Alabama. His son Tyler Foster of Florence is a member of the unit, too.
“We train together,” the father said. “I’m proud of him. It means a lot to me to know he’s a good soldier, and we’ll be serving in a combat zone together. Not many dads can say that. It’ll be special.”
Sgt. 1st Class Jamie Oliver of Russellville is headed for his third deployment. “I’ve given some of the younger soldiers a little guidance. We’ll be ready,” he said. He said he’ll miss his sons Ethan, 13, and Coltan, 10, the most during the nearly yearlong deployment.
About a dozen dignitaries gave short talks during the hour-long ceremony.
State Sen. Bill Holtzclaw, R-Madison, who represents a portion of Limestone County, told the family members remaining back home that they should look out for each other.
“Family members of the soldiers need to take care of each other,” said Holtzclaw, a retired Marine who was last deployed in Somalia in 1992. “The holidays, anniversaries, birthdays are difficult times.”
Singer Bekah Boswell, accompanied by pianist Barry Sublett, ended the program with “God Bless America.”
Lt. Col. Tim Alexander, public information officer for the Guard unit, said once it arrives in a U.S. Central Command site in the Middle East, it will be providing communications for soldiers in the field and helping provide technical control facilities.
He said the deployment is expected to last about nine months.
Information from: The Decatur Daily, https://www.decaturdaily.com/decaturdaily/index.shtml
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