Send-off ceremonies are always hard. We realize this because we've covered enough by now to see the emotions up close. It makes us all the more proud of those people who care enough to serve — whether that is in the active military or the National Guard.

Last Friday, about 100 Iowa Army National Guard members from the 248th Aviation Support Battalion were recognized during a send-off ceremony held at the West Gymnasium on the University of Northern Iowa campus.

Three other ceremonies were held throughout Iowa that day, in Davenport, Muscatine and Boone.

They are being deployed to provide aviation support for the U.S. Central Command in the Middle East. The deployment is part of a 500-soldier force from four states being deployed, which is the largest deployment since 2010. Another 35 soldiers from Detachment 1, Company C, 2-211th General Support Aviation Battalion in Waterloo also were deployed in August.

These send-off ceremonies are a nice way for a community to recognize the sacrifices of those being deployed to problem areas overseas. For those leaving, however, and their families who will be worrying about them, it can be a tough experience. It makes us all the more proud of those people who care enough to serve.

Brig. Gen. Steve Warnstadt addressed the soldiers during the ceremony.

"We appreciate the sacrifices that you're making. You do represent the finest that this state has to offer, but you're not alone," Brig. Gen. Steve Warnstadt said to the soldiers. "There's another group of patriots that I do want to address here, and that's the families. The only thing tougher than being a soldier is loving one. You didn't ask to carry this burden. You represent all that is admirable in our great country."

He challenged the community members present to offer support to those families while their spouses are deployed and acknowledged the large crowd of more than 500 people present to see off the soldiers.

"I'd ask that, frankly, Northeast Iowa become a beacon of everything that is right about this country, rallying and wrapping your arms around these family members," Warnstadt said. "To the troops, it looks to me like your communities have your back."

Certainly, it was good to see such strong support from the community. For years now, we have empathized with these soldiers and families during similar sendoffs.

In each of them, families were being separated. There were young children, too young to understand the situation, giving their fathers or mothers a final hug until they return.

They all know the hazards. Still they serve.

At the very least, we want the soldiers — and the families they have left behind — to realize how grateful we are. And we look forward to the day when all of them are able to participate in their welcome home ceremonies.

Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, another Lee Enterprises publication, Oct. 5.

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