The former featured a traditional birthday cake, hacked in two with sabers held by the post’s top commanders and two young soldiers.
The latter was a tearful goodbye two hours earlier to roughly 125 soldiers with the 518th Tactical Installation Networking Company of the Signal Corps. The company will be in Afghanistan for nine months.
Maj. Gen. Alan Lynn, the commanding officer of Fort Gordon, said the Army remains at war on this birthday and praised soldiers for their dedication to America’s freedom.
“It tells us, no matter what, that the Army keeps rolling along,” Lynn said.
Thursday morning started with the deployment out of Gym No. 3 on Brainard Avenue. On better days the gym holds homecoming ceremonies, but on Thursday the mood was muted. Hand-painted signs wished soldiers “be safe” instead of “welcome home.”
After a brief ceremony, the soldiers marched outside to charter buses that would start their journey to the other side of the world. Exactly 237 yearsbefore, the first Continental Army was gearing up for its fight for freedom against the British army.
“These soldiers are carrying on a long line of tradition,” Lt. Col. Keith Garwold, the 63rd Signal Battalion commander, said as soldiers shuffled onto the buses. “They’re ready to protect our freedoms.”
Garwold said that the soldiers who had never deployed are in for an “eye-opening” experience but that the seasoned soldiers know that they will soon fall into the familiar rhythm of life during a deployment. The worst part of a deployment is missing family and being away from the States, Garwold said.
Watching from the crowd that ringed the buses was DeLesha Davis, who was saying goodbye to her boyfriend of three years, Spc. MacArthur Jones. Jones had deployed to Korea before, but this was different, Davis said.
“He’s ready to get it over with, and I am, too,” she said.