"Osama bin Laden is no more," Lt. Col. Keith Garwold said to cheers Monday at the deployment of about 125 Fort Gordon soldiers to Afghanistan, hours after bin Laden's death in a U.S. raid on his Pakistan hideout.
While Garwold reminded "there is still much work to be done" by Alpha Company, 63rd Expeditionary Signal Battalion during a quick farewell ceremony on post, many felt a sense of unease at the unit's deployment to the 9-11 mastermind's longtime refuge.
"It's kind of weird that he's gone, and that he got killed the day of our deployment," said Pvt. 1st Class Tommie Culp, one of many making their first deployment today. "There's going to be a lot of turmoil over there."
Culp, 19, said tearful goodbyes to his mother, father, sister, girlfriend and 2-year-old daughter Lyliana, all of whom traveled 12 hours from Philadelphia to see him off Monday.
"I don't care; it's worth it," Culp's mother Edith Daniels said of making the drive.
Lisa Deal traveled from LaGrange. Ga., with daughter Senise, 2, to send her husband Tashawn Deal, 23, away for the first time since Army basic training. The family learned he was leaving for the yearlong mission about a month ago, she said.
"I don't know whether to be relieved or upset," Lisa Deal said of bin Laden's death. "It could make it worse or it could make it better."
As the unit from Alpha Company, 63rd Expeditionary Signal Battalion, boarded three charter buses, Lisa Deal had a message to her husband: "Tell him I love him and I'll see him when it's over," she said.
Atlanta-area relatives of William Russell Wallace traveled to see him deploy; other members from the Birmingham, Ala., area weren't able to come because of last week's devastating storms.
"It's very sad but we're very proud," said Wallace's mother, Joanne Wallace Cofer. As her youngest son departed, Cofer was reminded of her late husband's deployment to Vietnam.
"It feels exactly like it felt when we sent his father off," she said, adding that she had "confidence that Russell will return home."
Wallace said bin Laden's death and the storms that damaged his Alabama home last week both were part of "God's universe."
"The death of bin Laden is a blow to the morale of al-Qaida, and that's good," he said.
Bin Laden's death came 15 years after he declared war on the United States and almost a decade since he masterminded the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Al-Qaida was also blamed for the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa that killed 224 people and the 2000 attack on the USS Cole that killed 17 American sailors in Yemen, in addition to countless other plots, some successful and some foiled.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.