ELBERT COUNTY, Ga. - Family and friends of more than 200 Georgia Army National Guardsmen gathered to say goodbye before they head to Afghanistan.
The official send-off Friday included a parade through the streets of Elberton in Elbert County that ended in the town square.
Along the parade route, support for the Granite Battalion stretched through the streets. Brenda Cann, of Dewy Rose, said, “I’m hoping they’ll be safe and be able to come back home.”
It was the last march through Elberton before the guardsmen hit Afghan soil for one year.
One battery chanted, “Move out the way. Move out the way quick.”
The Georgia Army National Guard’s 214th Field Artillery Battalion was officially sent on its way to an airbase security type mission in Afghanistan from the town square.
There were naturally feelings of immense pride from many who gathered, including Lisa Brown, of Hartwell.
“Our soldiers are just the best, and this one especially,” Brown said of her friend.
But there were also tears from spouses and children. Fighting back tears, Carissa Rosenburg, of Elberton, explained how she and her husband have tried to comfort their two children.
“Daddy tells the kids how much he loves them and that he’ll be home before they know it,” she said.
For some of the younger children however, like Sgt. Brittany Smith’s 3-year-old daughter, Gabby, the celebration doesn’t connect with the bigger picture.
“I want to play,” the girl said.
Meanwhile, Smith fought to hold back her own emotions.
“I think the bus and plane ride are going to be where it gets to me some,” she said.
Two other guardsmen are taking a little bit of home with them. The Pitts, father and son, are being deployed together. Both feel it’s a blessing.
“Just knowing that I’m going to have his back, and he’s going to have my back. I believe we can get through it,” said Sgt. Zachary Pitts.
The guardsmen still have time remaining in the United States before they’re sent abroad. They’ll deploy from Camp Shelby in Mississippi on Feb. 26.