National Guardsmen Prepare To Deploy To Iraq

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Mike Schuh joined WJZ Eyewitness News as a general assignment reporter...
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HARFORD COUNTY, Md. (WJZ) — After seven years of war, late last year President Barack Obama announced the end of combat in Iraq, but as Mike Schuh reports, that doesn’t mean that our country is done sending troops there.

Put them in civilian clothes and they’re mechanics, electricians, engineers and more.  Saturday, they earn the title “citizen soldiers.” 

“We’re a maintenance company.  We’re going to close this base down to try to pull out.  We’re going to try to fix everything we can to try to pull out,” said Gabe Garzia.

This is the Maryland National Guard’s 1729th company.  In warrior uniforms, they’re being sent to Iraq to dismantle the war machine.  To that, at least temporarily, families are dismantled.

“The next couple of weeks will be hard, but then we’ll get into the groove of the day-to-day ,” said Nichole Murray.  “It’s really hard.”

Bullets, bombs and danger are not found as frequently in Iraq these days, but a year away is a certain sacrifice.

“It is very hard, but we don’t want to make it any harder on him than we have to,” said Terry Vencill, whose son is deploying.  “I’m proud.  I’m so proud of him.  I wish he didn’t have to go but I’m proud he is.”

These soldiers don’t go directly to Iraq.  For a month, they’ll have additional training in Fort Hood, Texas.

They leave at a time when many Americans have forgotten we still have troops in Iraq.

“They may not believe in what’s going on but they believe in the soldiers and want to take care of all the soldiers,” Garzia said.

One Gulf War vet had advice for her niece.

“If you focus on the mission, time will go by pretty fast,” said Sarah Streeter.

There was a final goodbye and many prayers given by family and friends that the 173 souls leaving Harford County Saturday will return back to them safely a year from now.

The last time that company deployed on an overseas mission like this was during World War II.

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