A proud goodbye
The Alpha Battery of the 194th Field Artillery, Iowa National Guard reported to its training facility at the Estherville armory for a formal sendoff ceremony Saturday afternoon. The battery will be deployed as part of the US Africa command, which involves activities in about 20 countries in Africa and the Middle East.
The ceremony would normally have included family, loved ones, supporters and community members, but due to physical distancing requirements only the guard members, speakers, media, and a couple of tech people were admitted to the readiness center.
U.S. Rep. Steve King and Estherville Mayor Joseph May joined representatives from the field artillery unit around the state in wishing the soldiers a completed mission and safe return.
Members of Alpha Battery entered the readiness center gym marching in formation to the Army anthem, “The Army Goes Rolling Along,” which was adapted from a song called “Field Artillery March” composed by John Phillip Sousa.
Iowa National Guard speakers included 1st Lt. Jessica Shockley, the first female combat arms officer in the Iowa Army National Guard, Chaplain 1st Lt. Jordan Helming, Derek Adams, commander of 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (2nd IBCT), 34th Infantry Division, and Matthew Strasser, Command Sergeant Major 1st Squadron, 113th Cavalry, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division, among others.
Rep. King encouraged soldiers to represent Iowa well. King said in May, 2003 he was in Baghdad with the First Command and met then-future chairman of the joint chiefs of staff Dempsey.
“He said, keep sending me those good Iowa kids,” King recalled.
King said this is the reputation that has been earned among Iowan and Minnesotan service members overseas. “Iowa has always stepped up to do more than their fair share,” King said.
Mayor Joseph May, himself a veteran, though he was not deployed, said one percent or less of the nation serves in the armed forces now.
“Your state thanks you for your service, as does your city,” May said. He provided words of faith to the guard members.
“You will succeed in your mission…my prayer is that you all will return home, where we will reward you for your service and thank you for what you have done.”
May reminded those in attendance, “The mission outweighs us all.”
The ceremony was followed by an escort out of town. Law enforcement vehicles led off the escort followed by veterans and supporters on motorcycles, one holding the edge of an American flag to billow out behind a motorcycle. Two buses carried guard members, who arrived early Sunday morning at Ft. Bliss, Texas where they will train before traveling to complete their overseas missions. Some members of Alpha Battery will also break off to assist other units with their missions in the region, while other members deployed some weeks ago.
Local residents from children to adults held signs, some that called out their specific loved ones, others that said, “We will miss you,” and “Be safe.” Others waved American flags, saluted or simply waved goodbye.