Farewell to the troops

| 21 Feb 2012 | 10:43

    SUSSEX COUNTY - Thousands of friends and family members of National Guard men and women gathered in Trenton on Saturday to see loved ones off before they were deployed to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The soldiers, who are scheduled to be away for a year, came from all over the state, including Sussex County, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Members of the National Guard 2nd Battalion, 102nd Armor based in Newton are part of the contingency being mobilized. "I want to personally thank you and your family for dedicating your time and lives to serve and protect the people of New Jersey and our nation," said Governor James E. McGreevey, speaking at the event. Joining the governor were several top state military officials, members of veteran organizations, the Red Cross, and several other organizations. "I thought it was extremely moving," said Donald Fowler, one of the speakers at the event, echoing the sentiments of many in attendance. At one point while speaking at the event, Fowler was overwhelmed during his speech and took a couple of seconds to regain his composure. "I was emotionally moved (with) everything that the men and women are sacrificing for our country." After the ceremony, which included a slide show highlighting past National Guard missions, and several patriotic renditions, the troops were allotted a short period of time to spend with their families prior to their departure. Long embraces combined with last minute hugs and kisses before the troops assembled and marched in formation to awaiting buses. Police then escorted the buses away while onlookers waved and clapped for their heroes. "I am confident your hard work and training have fully prepared you to succeed in your mission," said McGreevey. "On behalf of a grateful state and nation, we look forward to your safe return home."