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More Vt. Guard Members Head Out - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

More Vt. Guard Members Head Out

Burlington, Vermont - December 11, 2009

More families of Vermont Army National Guard soldiers said their goodbyes Friday, as another large unit began the big deployment to the war in Afghanistan. Although most of the troops will come back briefly for the holidays, this marks the official beginning of their year-long mission.

Friday's was the second in a series of ceremonies in which groups of 350 deployed soldiers-- these from armories in St. Albans, Swanton, Enosburg, Newport, Lyndonville, and Bennington-- were given an official sendoff.

"I really am kind of excited," Vt. Army National Guard Specialist Jack Tracy said. "I'm going to miss a lot of my family while I'm gone. But they're stronger than I am if nothing else."

Family and friends came to wish Specialist Tracy well. His father is John Tracy, a former state legislator and now an aide to Sen. Patrick Leahy. The elder Tracy is a Vietnam veteran who says support for military families is much better today.

The Yellow Ribbon program provides the families with a guide to everything from getting counseling to fixing plumbing problems at home. The Guard says it's made a good effort to upgrade the level of assistance to Guard families since large scale deployments began five years ago.

"Quite good, because the first time he deployed in 2005, we didn't have any of this. And it was a first deployment for us. So I was kind of feeling very lost," said Patty McDermott, a Vermont Guard family member.

The Vermont Guard has learned through experience that the families need just as much support as they can possibly get. And they're getting it right here. Not from the government, but from a not-for-profit organization known as the Family Readiness Program.

"The hope is to decrease the stress and anxiety levels as best we can here, and support the family members to the fullest," explained Lt. Col. Marc Goodreau, the director of the Family Readiness Program. "So that our soldiers and airmen, and what have you, who are overseas can focus on their mission without having to worry about what's going on back here in Vermont."

The goodbyes were said and the troops formed up. They heard a reminder that their loved ones will not be left alone.

"Focus on the mission ahead of you. We'll focus on the mission of making sure that those you leave behind for now will be taken care of," John Tracy told them.

They marched out to waiting buses, and a motorcade escorted by Vermont State Police to the airport, where they would board a jet to take them to Camp Atterbury in Indiana-- their last training before they begin Mission Afghanistan.

Andy Potter - WCAX News

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