About 100 soldiers from the Ohio National Guard's Company B 638th Support Battalion, headquartered at the North Canton Armory, participated in a Call to Duty ceremony Friday.
JACKSON TWP. Dawn Forson took a minute to grab a cup of coffee before the ceremony began.
Forson, wearing a dog tag-style necklace displaying her wedding photo, held back tears as she talked about preparing for a year without her husband, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jason Forson.
"It’s just anticipation of immense change that impacts every facet of every day," said Forson, of Manuta. "It feels like a freight train coming.”
Jason Forson is a member of the Ohio National Guard's Company B 638th Support Battalion. About 100 soldiers from the aviation support unit, headquartered at the North Canton Armory, participated in a Call to Duty ceremony Friday at Faith Family Church.
The unit this weekend will begin deployment, ultimately going to Kuwait. They should return in about a year. The unit will conduct field maintenance, battle damage assessment and recover and repair downed helicopters.
It's the first time in its 71-year-history that this unit will deploy as a company, though not the first deployment for many of its members.
It was Jason Forson's second deployment. The family had to help their children, 9-year-old Alyce and 8-year-old Trent, learn how to manage the big emotions of their dad's departure.
"We had to talk about why daddy’s job is so important," said Dawn Forson. "Sometimes his job takes him out of the United States. And we’re very proud of daddy. We're reminding them that it’s temporary."
For the Carr brothers, the deployment was a family affair.
Sgt. First Class Joshua Carr, of Green, and Sgt. Ethan Carr, of Hartville, had deployed in the past. For the first time, the brothers were deploying together.
"It's interesting and cool all at the same time," Joshua Carr said about serving alongside his brother.
"It's definitely a unique situation. It will be nice to spend some time together," Ethan Carr agreed.
Friday's ceremony was packed with family, friends and supporters. The program included remarks from commanding officers and politicians, including North Canton Mayor David Held.
"I know that our families have already paid a high price for the hours that our soldiers have spent training, the anguish of wondering when this day would come and what this deployment would be like. Well, now here it is, and we'll know," said Maj. General John Harris, adjunct general of the Ohio National Guard. "We understand that the next year will be a significant sacrifice for all you family members. I want you to know that you have 100 percent of our support."
Gov. Mike DeWine, who attended the ceremony alongside his wife, Fran, also offered his thanks to troops and their loved ones.
"Thank you for your sacrifice. Thank you for what you do for this country. What you do for the state of Ohio," he said. "We appreciate your expertise. We appreciate what you're giving up. A year away from your family and friends. A year in Kuwait keeping the helicopters going and making sure that things turn out the way they're supposed to turn out."
Those in the audience waved miniature American flags. Many wore shirts showing their support for the unit.
Gwendolyn Malone, of Cleveland, and her sister, Patricia Jones, donned red shirts saying "On Fridays We Wear Red" on the front and "Remember Everyone Deployed" on the back.
It would be the third deployment for Malone's son, Staff Sgt. Eric Malone.
"It's nerve-wracking. Because you don't know (what will happen.) And of course you don't want your child to go, but he has to go," Gwendolyn Malone said, adding that Eric Malone has said it's "something that I just have to do."
"I'm very proud of him because he really wants to serve his country. I have to be proud of him," she said.
It was a first deployment for Spc. Andrea Gump, a Wheeling, W.Va., native and recent graduate of Kent State University. The 21-year-old joined the National Guard while in college.
"I don't really know how to feel right now. I think I'll start feeling it once I step on the plane," she said.
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