Several months ago, two members of American Legion Post 42 in Townsend, Mont., experienced the emotional impact of a deployment ceremony. Sharon Doig and Post 42 Commander Tim Gavin gave a proper send-off to 150 soldiers of the Montana Army National Guard’s 1-189th General Aviation Support Battalion at Helena Army Aviation Support Facility. At the time, the battalion was departing to Fort Hood, Texas, for training; they are currently stationed in Kuwait to support Operation Spartan Shield. Doig shared her experience with The American Legion.
"This was the first time that Tim and I attended a deployment ceremony, and we both found it very moving. There had to be at least 500 family and friends to see the 150 men and women off. Tim and I shook hands with many of the young men and women, telling them thanks for their service and to be safe. Outside on the tarmac, eight Black Hawk helicopters were waiting for the soldiers. What a thrill when the helicopters turned on their motors and even more so when they later hovered over the tarmac until they were all airborne. The Black Hawks took off north of us and then they turned around and in formation flew over us. The crowd waved and the emergency vehicles on the tarmac blew their horns and sirens and flashed their lights in a fond farewell. The rest of the battalion made their way on to an airplane that was waiting for them on the tarmac. As the time drew near for departure, you could see tears among the soldiers and their supporters. The last soldier to board the plane turned and waved to the crowd. As the plane prepared to depart, bag pipes were played by a band, the emergency vehicles turned their lights on and sounded their horns and sirens, and the crowd waved. One of my favorite moments is when I saw a few soldiers taking a bit of home with them – their pillows."