AMORY – There were tears, cheers and plenty of prayers to go around at the Friday morning sendoff ceremony for the 1/98th Cavalry Regiment in Amory.
Ninety-six soldiers were given a community farewell ceremony before loading onto buses and heading to Camp Shelby, where they will train for mobilization until their mid-June yearlong deployment overseas.
Unit Commander Capt. Marty Walton called Friday’s event “an outstanding show of support.”
The 1/98th Cavalry Regiment is a unit of the 155th Brigade Combat Team, which previously deployed to Iraq in 2005. Some of the soldiers have been deployed as many as two times before, while others are facing war for the first time.
Sgt. Chris Coker, who is readying for deployment, delivered the ceremony’s invocation, his voice breaking when he prayed for the families that will be left behind. “Keep them and protect them,” he said.
West Amory Elementary School’s second-grade classes, dressed in red shirts, sang for the gathering and the Amory High School band played the National Anthem.
Squadron commander Lt. Col. John Nipp said Amory’s sendoff event “may be the best one I’ve had an honor to be a part of.”
Nipp said the soldiers “are trained to accomplish this mission.” When soldiers know their families are cared for in their communities, he said, it allows the soldiers to stay focused and safe.
Amory Mayor Howard Boozer pledged the city’s total support. Nettleton Mayor R.V. Adams was on hand too, to offer prayers and thanks to the troops, including Nettleton’s Detachment 1, HQ 1/98th Cavalry Regiment.
Keynote speaker at the ceremony was U.S. District Judge Mike Mills of Oxford, who talked about Americans’ role in today’s world.
“We’ve reached a point where we must play a part,” he said. “We’ve found ourselves drawn into conflict in different parts of the world.”
Mills said he had confidence that the soldiers were up to the task.
“America is more than a place,” he said. “These soldiers represent more than a place, they represent an idea. The idea that free people can govern themselves. You’re defending an idea.”
Chris Wilson/NEMS Daily Journal