Sendoff for Waterloo-based soldiers deploying to Afghanistan - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Hundreds attend sendoff for Waterloo-based soldiers deploying to Afghanistan

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -

A Waterloo-based unit of the Iowa Army National Guard is preparing to spend the next year serving in Afghanistan.

Hundreds of people attended a sendoff ceremony Thursday afternoon for the Detachment 1, Company C, 2-211th General Support Aviation Battalion.

According to the soldiers, the deployment is hardest on their families back home.

Ethan and Garrett Palmer's dad, SGT Eric Palmer, is leaving on his third Middle East deployment in five years. This time, they know what to expect, but that doesn't make it any easier.

"Really really proud of him," said youngest brother Ethan. "Bout as proud as Ethan said!" his brother added.

Ethan said their mother, Katie, stays strong for the family, but speaking from experience, he has the most difficult time at night.

"When we're trying to go to sleep I can't really go because I miss him so much. I'm not used to it," said Ethan.

The battalion is comprised of many soldiers who are also parents. SGT Brad Friend is leaving behind three youngsters, Haley, Isaac, and Ava. Friend has spent the last few days trying not to think about all the things he'll miss.

"Things we're doing now, it's the last time I'll be doing them with my kids for the next year. When I took her to the store yesterday, that's the last time I'll take her to the store. Going to Chuck E. Cheese, that'll be the last time we go to Chuck E. Cheese for a year. So it's hard to do that," he said.

The soldiers are members of a MEDEVAC unit, meaning they'll provide medical care, by air, to the troops on the ground. It's a highly specialized and highly respected role, but it's also a dangerous one, as they'll be flying their helicopters into combat territory.

"If there's enemy personnel or bad people, we're going to go no matter what. We're going to take precautions to make sure nobody gets hurt any further, but we are going to be there," said CWO3 Chris Frederick.

While it's difficult to say goodbye knowing what's ahead, Friend's wife Stacey is putting on a brave face for their kids.

"I think we'll just have to take it a day at a time. Am I ready, no. But I'll have to be," she said.

Meanwhile, Garrett and Ethan are preparing to hold down the fort at their house until SGT Palmer's mission is complete. They agree they're sharing the role of "man of the house" for the next year.

"Well, we both are," said Ethan. "But he says he's the man of the house!" he noted, pointing to his older brother.

The soldiers will leave, in stages, over the next few days. They'll spend about 40 days training at Fort Hood, then fly to Afghanistan for the remainder of their deployment.

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