Reality is starting to sink in for the 67 soldiers of the Wisconsin's National Guard's 105th Cavalry. They're now on their way to war in Iraq, but before they loaded up and shipped out they managed to squeeze in their last few goodbyes.
It was a day filled with anxiousness and emotion for the soldiers of Troop E, 105th Cavalry based in Merrill and Antigo. These members of the Wisconsin Army National Guard will join up with the Second Battalion, 127th Infantry Division, then deploy to Iraq for at least the next year.
"With the unknown ahead of us, it gives a lot of guys a little apprehension, but they're prepared to do it and we know our families are all taken care of. Saying goodbye is the toughest thing," says 1SG Rick Clay, one of the soldiers headed to Iraq.
While most families said goodbye to their loved ones at Tuesday's send-off ceremonies, some came along to watch them ship out at the armory. It's a goodbye that hasn't been easy for the soldiers' families.
"It was tough for both of [my parents]. Both of them cried, especially my mom. She's the one who talked me into going into the military," says SPC Charlie Krome, one of the soldiers headed to Iraq.
But despite the fear what could happen overseas, the soldiers say they're now like family, and they're ready to take on whatever comes their way.
"It's a natural thing. These guys work together and a bond forms. There will be some ups and downs, but that's normal, especially when spend a lot of time together," says 1SG Clay.
"All Wisconsin soldiers are trained with the best equipment and everybody's prepared," says SPC Krome.
The entire battalion will have another send-off Thursday morning at Volk Field near Camp Douglas. Then it's off to Camp Shelby in Mississippi for training, and then to Iraq for at least a year.