Pfc. Joshua Merrit of Austin stands at attention Tuesday while Delta Company 1st Sgt. Matthew Price called off the roll of soldiers who would be deploying to Kuwait. -- Tim Engstrom/Albert Lea Tribune

Archived Story

UPDATE: ‘There’s a certain pride’

Published 7:12pm Tuesday, May 31, 2011

ALBERT LEA — Many soldiers from Austin, Albert Lea and beyond have waited for the day they would deploy for active duty. Tuesday, it happened in Albert Lea.

For months, National Guardsmen and their family have prepared for the day. Tuesday marks the last day many of those soldiers will see their loved ones for as long as a year, as they head to Iraq to serve in Operation New Dawn. Some have been deployed overseas multiple times; but for many, it’s a brand new experience.

“Yes, we’ve been preparing for it,” said Shelli Merritt of Austin, the mother of a 20-year-old soldier, Joshua. Joshua will deploy for his first time ever with the Delta Company, 2nd Battalion, 135th Infantry Regiment, 34th Infantry Division.

Merritt added, “I don’t know that you’re ever really prepaperd for it.”

She said a family readiness group helped her and others prepare for the day. The group had teleconferences, monthly meetings and offered online resources about what families should expect. But every family’s situation is different.

Merritt said Tuesday was her daughter, Josie’s, sixth birthday, which made the situation even more difficult.

“We’ve had a little time to deal with it, but adjusting isn’t easy,” Merritt said.

Although family members said the day was stressful, they’re proud of the men and women who serve.

Merritt hopes all families in the area will show support, something more military families in the area agree with.

“It’s tough, but there’s a certain pride,” Jocelyn Northenscold said.

Northenscold is the wife of Derek, a specialist in the Delta Company, 2nd Battalion, 135th Infantry Regiment, 34th Infantry Division.

“I have faith in him,” Northenscold said. “I’m happy to be strong for him.”

Nearly 600 people attended a deployment ceremony at the Albert Lea Armory Tuesday morning. Sgt. Jesse Miller had a big group of family members at the ceremony to see him off.

“It’s exciting but scary,” Jesse’s step-mom Jackie Miller said.

This is Jesse’s third deployment, and his dad, Steve Miller, said although he knows his son loves what he does he, hopes it’s his last deployment. Jackie said she was looking forward to being able to video chat with Jesse during his deployment, which they hadn’t been able to do when he was deployed before.

This is the second-largest deployment of the Minnesota National Guard since World War II, with a total of 2,400 soldiers leaving. Even more soldiers from Austin and Albert Lea, have already deployed as members of other units that left days before from Fort Snelling. The soldiers will be stationed in Kuwait and will provide security at the base and security for troops, equipment and supplies through Iraq.

Rep. Rich Murray spoke to the crowd and said he’s enjoyed meeting members of the unit.

“I salute you for your service to this country,” Murray said.

He said he hoped family members lean on people in the community for help and support when needed.

“Every day in Minnesota is veterans day,” Murray said.

Capt. Steven Wayne also spoke Tuesday. He said he was overwhelmed by the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon support group and thanked them for supporting the troops.

Family members of Daniel Springborg, a soldier who deployed Tuesday, said they thought the ceremony showed how much the community supports the soldiers.

“I thought it was really significant and well done,” Daniel’s wife, Gail, said.

Gail said that she’s proud of her husband for his commitment to the country, but that the separation will be hard. Daniel’s parents Roy and Barb were at the ceremony, and Roy said they’ve had to deal with deployments before.

“Daniel always volunteers for everything,” Roy said.

Wayne said during his speech he understands that soldiers feel like they should just go without the ceremony and the fanfare. Though some family members think they might enjoy the ceremony more than the soldiers, they still think it’s important to show the soldiers they’re supporting them.

“I think it’s nice for them to feel support before they go,” Northenscold said.

Click here to see a gallery of images from the ceremony.

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