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Vermont National Guard members leave for their deployment

Published: Jan. 25, 2021 at 5:46 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 26, 2021 at 8:23 AM EST
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WILLISTON, Vt. (WCAX) - The first of 1,000 Vermont National Guard soldiers have now left the Burlington International Airport for a one-year deployment to Europe.

Early Tuesday morning, families got to say their goodbyes to about 40 soldiers.

For some, it was bittersweet.

“We’re proud. There are a lot of emotions going through we are excited for the journey they are going to have and having the kids look up to somebody and you know so many people we consider family, but it is definitely heartbreaking in another sense as well,” said Amanda Winn, whose husband is deploying.

We talked with Capt. Shawn Slaney, the commander of the 172nd Law Enforcement Detachment. He says though tough, it’s all about serving a bigger purpose.

“We are very excited, a lot of hard work has gone into it, it’s where the rubber meets the road. I’m extremely proud of our soldiers and the resilience they have definitely shown. Nobody wants to leave a loved one behind, but it’s all part of the sacrifice, and while we are conducting a mission, our families have to standby until we come home safe,” said Slaney.

On Monday, friends and family could not attend a ceremony due to COVID regulations but they were able to watch on a livestream set up by the Guard, which included speakers from the Guard and elected officials.

“I wish you all the best. Be safe and, again, look out for each other, and we’ll see you on the backside,” said Maj. Gen. Greg Knight, the commander of the Vermont National Guard.

We don’t know exactly where officers will be going, but it is part of the U.S.-European command as part of Operation Freedom Sentinel. They will be functioning as law enforcement officers on their European base.

“We’re going to be responding to traffic crashes, we are going to be responding to any 911 call for service. We are also the customs agents on the U.S. base that we are going to be at,” said Slaney.

Back at home, families will be taken care of by the Family Readiness Program. Several people spoke about how the Guard will be there, whether it’s a leaking hot water heater or an unplowed driveway, to help families whose loved ones are deployed.

“I’m excited, I’m very excited. Like I said, it’s never easy to kiss a loved one goodbye for a year but it’s for a bigger purpose, we have been preparing for this, we are going to do an outstanding job, and now it’s time to focus on the mission,” Slaney said.

Elected officials like Sens. Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders, and Rep. Peter Welch sent in videos and statements wishing the Guard well, along with Gov. Phil Scott.

“As you carry out your duties in European command, just remember, you’re Vermont strong and we are very proud of you. And by the time you return, you’ll be able to hug your family and friends, and we’ll celebrate the service you’ve given over the past year,” said Scott, R-Vermont.

The soldiers are expected to be deployed for around one year.

“You should understand you are different, every one of you. You volunteer to serve our communities, our state, our nation. And same for your families, they’re special because they support you and give you the ability to do what you do for us,” Knight said.

The soldiers left Tuesday morning for Fort Bliss, Texas, where they will begin preparing for mobilization.

This deployment of about 40 soldiers is just a first of the 950 Vermont Army National Guard soldiers expected to deploy this year.

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