The town of Marion gave a farewell sendoff to members of the 760th Engineering Reserve Unit Thrusdayis morning as they left for further training, followed by deployment to Afghanistan.
It was a farewell march down Marion's Main Street for the 760th Reserve Unit and the town paused to say thank you and goodbye. The troops are heading for Mississippi and then to Afghanistan.
The faces of commitment and dedication lined the street as friends and families said farewell.
A flag that was given to the town when they received a piece of steel from the World Trade Center site was folded and given to them by local VFW commander Turk Johnson to fly over their forward position. "We want them to know that we love them and we're here for support, not only while they're gone but for their families if they need support," Johnson said. "That's what we're all for, veterans to help veterans."
A large crowd showed up to say goodbye. Schoolchildren, along with citizens and family members, gathered. "The turnout today didn't surprise me, but I was really proud of it," said town mayor David Helms. "When you get the word out, our people will be out to support our veterans."
Cheers rang out as the troops headed toward their buses for the trip to Mississippi.
As the buses rolled by, the emotions began to flow for people like Beth Ritter, whose son was on board. "My heart, my soul, my everything was on that bus that just left," she said.
As veteran motorcycle group Rolling Thunder led the procession, thoughts turned to their return. "It was a good sendoff, but I wish they were coming home instead of going," said Judy Gross, grandmother of one of the soldiers.
And so does the whole community.