Thanksgiving week soldier sendoff is bittersweet - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Thanksgiving week soldier sendoff is bittersweet

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DAVENPORT (KWWL) -- Monday night, around 75 soldiers, many from Iowa, said goodbye to family and friends. The soldiers are from 2-211th General Support Aviation Battalion, of the Iowa Army National Guard.

It was a bitter sweet time for many soldiers. kicking off the holidays. That's because this unit flies, maintains and refuels CH-47D "Chinook" helicopters. Many of the them have a passion for aviation and they've dreamed of serving their country in this manner. But the week of Thanksgiving, while many sit down to a meal and say hello to family, they'll be saying goodbye.

Stepping into the Iowa Army National Guard Aviation Support Facility in Davenport, 75 soldiers were greeted by hundreds of friends, family and fellow soldiers. All to say goodbye.

"We're headed to Iraq to help out the Iraqi people, provide service and support for Iraq and help our own people as well," 1st Lieutenant Forest Lightle of Marion said.

This is Lightle's first deployment, in his more than 11 years with the National Guard.

"Dad's gonna be gone for Christmas and then News Years and then Easter and then birthdays," Forest's wife, Julie said.

He's leaving behind a wife. And two young children.

"It's gonna be difficult I'm sure. We have been in a long distance relationship and so we've done the letters and calling and such but this is obviously gonna be different with him being an ocean away," Julie Lightle said.

"I can be prepare for this but there's not way for them to prepare for that," Lt. Lightle said.

But he has been preparing for a mission like this, all his life.

"I've been into aviation my entire life. It's what I was born to do and this is pretty much the high point for me," Lt. Lightle said.

He'll be flying, maintaining and refueling CH-47D "Chinook" helicopters; something he is looking forward to, despite the sacrifice of leaving home.

"I think the bigger sacrifice is on the family. I've got not only myself but my wife and kids to worry about and I think for them it's a tougher job then it is for me," Lt. Lightle said.

And it's a job that will soon take Lightle to new heights.

Many of the soldiers have the next four days off. And they'll likely spend Thanksgiving with family. This weekend they'll head down to Fort Hood, Texas, where they'll train for two months. The soldiers are set to arrive in a Iraq in early January.

Online Reporter: Lauren Squires

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