Soldiers from Fort Gordon are deployed to Iraq

Corey Perrine/Staff
Sgt. John Burner touches hands with his daughter Caitlyn, 6, as Pfc. Phillip Banuelos, does the same with his wife, Andrea, as soldiers from Bravo Company, 63rd Expeditionary Signal Battalion left Fort Gordon on Saturday following a farewell ceremony. Their mission in Iraq is scheduled to last about a year.

The deployment ceremony for Bravo Company of the 63rd Expeditionary Signal Battalion was filled with emotion Saturday afternoon as family members and friends sat in the bleachers, looking out at the soldiers who stood before them.


Some took pictures, some waved flags, and others wiped away tears.

They had known for about nine months that the deployment was coming, but that still didn't make it easier when the "dreaded day" came, said Colen Ortiz, whose husband, 1st Sgt. Antony Ortiz, is among the 110 soldiers being deployed.

"That's something that we have to deal with," she said.

The soldiers' deployment is for about one year. They are supporting the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment and assisting with the drawdown in Iraq as part of the transitional forces.

The U.S. combat mission in Iraq will end Tuesday. The number of U.S. troops in Iraq is expected to be reduced to about 50,000 by month's end.

For many of the soldiers, including 1st Sgt. Ortiz, it's their fourth deployment to the Middle East. This one is more difficult to deal with for Colen Ortiz, who is expecting the couple's first child in October.

"The very first three (deployments), I just had to worry about myself. Now I have someone else to worry about," she said.

Now is the time to be strong, she added, and her message to other families who have a deployed soldier would be one of strength.

"Support your soldier," she said. "I know it's tough with them leaving and everything, but we have to make sure we support them."



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