Members of the 201st RED HORSE of the Pennsylvania Air National Guard received a special sendoff as part of a unique tradition this weekend as they prepared for deployment overseas.
A final wave of Pennsylvania Air National Guard engineers said good-bye to their families Saturday at an emotional ceremony before heading out to the Middle East and Asia.
A cloudy day at Fort Indiantown Gap matched the gloomy mood that settles over a deployment. A dad played catch with his sons. Families posed for pictures and hold each other close. The last few precious moments were spent together before they are separated for eight months.
“Kind of a sad time yet make it as upbeat as we possibly can,” said Senior Master Sergeant Nancy Stoltzfus of Manheim. This is her third deployment.
“I’ve known for about a year. We have rotation so I’ve known for quite a while. Have plenty of time to prepare,” she said.
But nothing could prepare her for the moment she left her three children.
“Leaving three kids now and their ages, they’re involved in all kinds of activities — it’s a little bit harder,” Stoltzfus said. “I gave them owls with a Bible verse on that says something about God watching over them.”
Families returned the prayers and well wishes by writing special messages to the airmen on yellow bows. Those bows were hung around the 201st RED HORSE Squadron statue.
RED HORSE stands for Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineers, and the tradition of placing special personal messages on yellow ribbons around the statue is unique to this squadron. Those ribbons will remain there until the troops return home.
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