Bravo Battery leaves

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 3, 2005

A subdued atmosphere overtook the National Guard Armory in Andalusia last week as the 138 troops of the 1st Battalion of the 117th Field Artillery pulled out of the parking lot on Capital Trailways buses, headed to Camp Atterbury in Indiana -- the first stop in their eventual deployment to Iraq.

The troops waved good-bye through the tinted windows as their family and friends stood tearfully outside, clutching tiny American flags and signs wishing them well on their journey.

"We're trying to be strong for him," said Teresa McGough of Luverne, standing with daughters Kayla and Brittney, as her husband James pulled out of the parking lot. "They need our support -- probably more than we need the support. We love him and know he's going to come back to us. We're praying everyday."

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For Kayla and Brittney, waving good-bye to their father was an emotion filled moment. Neither of them have had to face that prospect before. But, both girls and their mother are finding support in the form of friends and family.

"I have a friend whose dad is in the Air Force and has been over there," said Kayla. "It helps a lot knowing that there are other people I can talk to about what is happening."

That's something Teresa and Brittney agree on, too.

"We've received a tremendous amount of support," Brittney said. "Friends and family support us, and knowing they are there for us means a lot."

Aside from friends and family, the soldiers families are also receiving support from the guard.

"There is a lot of support out there for us," Teresa said. "They let us know that they will be available to help us out. We've gotten so many telephone numbers and addresses of people and groups …"

But, for all that support the families are receiving, Teresa emphasizes the importance of supporting the soldiers.

"All my husband asked was if we supported him," she said. "He wanted to make sure we were supporting them, because there are a lot of people who aren't, and that makes it hard on them. They have a job to do, and are going to do it the best they can."

Those statements are something that Jennifer Sewell of Luverne shares. Her husband Zack is leaving her and son Channing behind for the duration of the deployment; where she said he hopes the support remains strong.

"They do need our support, and it feels good knowing so many people in all the cities are supporting them," Jennifer said. "He wanted to make sure that we supported his job, and we do.

"It is difficult for us to let them go, but it's important to them that we believe in them and their mission," Jennifer continued. "We have to support them. They knew when they signed their contracts this was a possibility, and now, hard as it is, we have to let them go. I just thank God for email so we can stay in touch."

After the soldiers pulled out, led by a police escort, and about two dozen folks lining Prestwood Bridge Road, family members huddled briefly before many headed back inside the armory.

It was after the soldiers were out of sight that one family let its emotions show -- and its feelings be known.

Loconyan Powell, of Greenville, whose husband Roy Lee Powell, Jr., was on one of the buses, said she doesn't understand the necessity of her husband -- or the other troops heading to Iraq.

"I feel alone and hurt that he's going, and that the others are going," Loconyan said. "They should not be going, but we have to support them. We are praying for their safe return everyday."

Laconyan was there with family members of other soldiers from Greenville -- who just happened to be family members of hers, too.

"Carl and Wesley Robinson are going, Tracy Steele is going -- all of them are leaving behind family and it hurts," Laconyan said, "but, we all just hugged and prayed together before they got on the bus, and wished them well. We hope they come back safely without any problems."