On Wednesday, hundreds of Connecticut National Guardsmen said goodbye. As they filed onto a plane, they know it’ll be about a year before they’re able to come home.
“Always been a pleasure to serve my country. It was one of my dreams growing up as a kid, being able to represent the nation, wear this flag. It’s an absolute honor," said Captain Joseph Stoute with the 1-102nd Infantry Regiment.
This is Stoute’s second deployment. He and nearly 600 other soldiers of the 1-102nd Infantry Regiment are beginning their assignment for Operation Enduring Freedom’s Horn of Africa mission. This is the largest single deployment of Connecticut guardsmen in about 12 years.
“The reality of today is they’ve worked very hard to train up despite the pandemic,” said Maj. Gen. Francis Evon, Adjutant General and Commander of the Connecticut National Guard.
Get Connecticut local news, weather forecasts and entertainment stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC Connecticut newsletters.
In addition to meeting those challenges, they’ve been busy helping Connecticut with the pandemic, including helping to build up the hospital surge capacity early last year.
Now these men and women are doing their federal mission, first heading to Texas and then overseas.
“I’m very excited. It was hard to leave home today,” said Lt. Eleanor Baranofsky of the 1-102nd Infantry Regiment.
Lt. Baranofsky’s husband and two pups, like hundreds of other families, will be at home waiting for these soldiers to return. And when the 1-102nd Infantry Regiment is half a world away, they say knowing the support their families receive from the military and the community means a lot.
“They always say the families are the ones that are deployed, and they are. Like, my wife and kids are going through it a lot harder than I am, so having that support structure is absolutely phenomenal,” said. Capt. Stoute.
“Their families are an integral part of our success, of their success. Without the support at home, they can’t go forward with their mission,” said Maj. Gen. Evon.