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      Community says farewell to soldiers headed to Afghanistan

      Saturday, more than 100 heartland soldiers left for a year long deployment to Afghanistan.

      Operation Enduring Freedom is hitting close to home. Saturday, more than 100 heartland soldiers left for a year long deployment to Afghanistan. 120 Missouri National Guard soldiers got a heroâ??s welcome as they walked onto the Hugh Calvin Dunn football field full of family and friends. â??At this point, the soldiers are excited, motivated and dedicated as soldiers and ready to go,â?? said Capt. McClellan H. Gaono-Taises, the 1438th commander.

      For 12 months the Macon-based 1438 Engineer Company has been preparing for its departure for a year long deployment to southern Afghanistan. Captain Gaono said the departure ceremony means a lot to the troops. â??It's very important, because 90 percent of the soldiers in this company are from the local area here in Macon and Kirksville, and so what you'll see is the community involvement in the departure ceremony such as this one and the excitement and adrenaline rush it means a lot to the soldiers,â?? Gaono said. â??They get to see their community witness them being sent off to another country.â??

      Jeff Daniels, of Kirksville, came to send his son off Grant Daniels. â??Iâ??m very proud and yet Iâ??m kind of apprehensive too,â?? Daniels said. There are 470 Missouri soldiers deployed in Afghanistan with the Missouri National Guard.

      Gaono has been in service for 17 years and this is his first tour to Afghanistan and also, his first as commander. â??Iâ??m pretty excited,â?? he said. â??Thereâ??s a lot of stress behind it. Making sure the soldiers are squared away, the training that they conduct is complete, but yeah Iâ??m excited. There are days where it's pretty stressful, because Iâ??m not worried about myself â?| Iâ??m worried about everyone in the company. Iâ??m excited just have to stay motivated.â??

      The majority of the troops time will be spend tearing down bridges and preparing them for shipment back to the U.S. The ceremony ended with the Patriot Guard Riders escorting the soldierâ??s buses from the school.

      Operation Enduring Freedom is part of the U. S. commitment to pull out of Afghanistan by next year.