Before they left to be deployed, scattered among military hospitals in the United States and Europe, more than 100 soldiers of the 3297th U.S. Army Hospital gathered at Fort Gordon to say goodbye to family and friends.
"Soldiers are going back for their second and third times, because of you, the medics," said Col. Carol L. Bowdoin, commander of the hospital unit.
More than 160 soldiers participated in ceremonies Friday at Fort Gordon's Barton Field.
Their deployment will last 18 months. Soldiers will first go to different hospitals, mostly in the United States, and then might be deployed to hospitals elsewhere.
"We've got people just about everywhere," said Col. Sandra Jordan, adjutant for the unit.
The soldiers are filling in for active-duty soldiers who have been called to duty at places abroad, including Iraq.
Medical personnel currently have a critical role, as injured soldiers are able to survive wounds now that would have killed them in the past, Col. Bowdoin said.
Many soldiers can get from the battlefield to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., within 72 hours, she said.
"It is work that you'll do throughout the United States ... to provide expert care to them, to allow them to go back," said Brig. Gen. Ronald Silverman, the commander of the 3rd Medical Command.
With smiles on their faces and glimmers of tears in their eyes, Sgt. 1st Class Jason Reeves, of Tennessee, his wife, Cynthia, and sons Drew, 8, and Devon, 4, gathered under a tree after the mobilization ceremonies finished.
"I'm glad they had this ceremony, so our families could come," said Sgt. 1st Class Reeves, who is an emergency medical technician and licensed practical nurse. He will be heading to Fort Bliss, Texas.
Ginger Fitzgerald traveled from Lake City, Fla., to attend Friday's ceremonies as her son, Maj. Hoke Fitzgerald, was preparing to go to Fort Sill, Okla.
Mrs. Fitzgerald, who served in the military as a radio operator during the Korean War, beamed at her son's service as an operating room nurse and physician's assistant.
"In any situation, you hate to see your family go, but I'm just so very proud of him and pleased."
Reach Jeremy Craig at (706) 823-3409 or email@example.com.