GLOVERSVILLE - The soldiers appeared ready for their mission, although their families and friends seemed more than a little anxious about them actually going off and doing it.
But as it plays out often in America during times of war, a deployment ceremony was conducted Sunday for 120 soldiers of the Gloversville Armory-based New York Army National Guard's Company C, 2nd Battalion, 108th Infantry Regiment who are leaving this spring for Kuwait.
"He's my hero," said Brittany Dean of Queensbury, gazing at her boyfriend, 21-year-old Army Spc. Dayton Cross of Argyle.
New York Army National Guard soldier Jason Whitman, left, of Mayfield, gets a hug from his mother, Beth, after Sunday’s deployment ceremony for Charlie Company at Gloversville High School.
The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan
Dean's and Cross' family were among more than 300 people who attended the hour-long deployment ceremony in the Gloversville High School gym.
This marks the third time Charlie "Vikings" Company has been mobilized since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
"These soldiers have enlisted and re-enlisted after 9/11, fully knowing their mission," said Capt. Shawn Tabankin, company commander.
About 1,800 soldiers throughout the state are being mobilized, more than half of the 3,000 going to Kuwait from eight states. Troops will depart early next week for more training at Camp Shelby, Miss., followed by a one-year deployment to Kuwait in April.
Cross' mother, Gianna, called it a "bittersweet day" for her family. Dana Cross, the soldier's father and himself a Coast Guard veteran had a simple message for his son: "Keep your head low and follow the rules ... he's never listened to me yet."
Prior to the ceremony, private Nicholas Fox of Gloversville said he wasn't particularly nervous and was ready to do his job.
"It's going to be all right," Fox said.
Retired Army soldier Sandy Ellis of Melrose, Rensselaer County, was sitting alone in the gym stands. She was a bit nervous seeing off her boyfriend -35-year-old Spec. Dennis Campbell - for the first time.
Brent Mersinger of Gloversville was present with family and friends to send off his good friend, Staff Sgt. Jason Whitman of Mayfield, who will be on his third tour. The two friends work at the Walmart Regional Distribution Center in Johnstown. Whitman served previously in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"I'm feeling multiple emotions," a subdued Mersinger said, but he was all smiles later as he met and shook hands with his friend.
Whitman simply said, "I have full confidence in my guys."
The Charlie Company infantrymen marched into the gym and made an instant "left face" toward the podium before going into "parade rest" mode to hear their superior officers and civilians speak highly of their service.
"This ceremony is for all of you, as we say goodbye to all our soldiers who go off and do some good things," said Lt. Col. Joseph Biehler, the company's battalion commander. "It's an honor to serve the country."
He said Kuwait lies in an "unstable region" of the Mideast, and for the Army to pick Charlie Company out of Gloversville is "a great honor."
"This is just to let you know we will come back," Biehler said.
Col. Dennis Deeley of the 42nd Infantry Division, who is on his third deployment with Charlie Company since 2004, said "it all boils down to the simple things of what we do."
"We thank everyone for your support," Deeley said. "These soldiers in front of you are all military professionals. This company was one of the best companies in the United States when they returned from Iraq."
Col. Raymond Shields, chief of staff of New York Army National Guard headquarters, told the families about the Army's "robust" Family Readiness Group based in the Capital Region. He noted the program connects with 270 various organizations to help families communicate with their soldiers with "anything you might possibly require."
Group spokeswoman Michelle Saxby had a booth set up in the gym, handing out brochures and papers.
"Our main purpose is to be a conduit for the families while their soldiers are overseas," she said.
Shields told the company "safety is always first," urging soldiers to keep in touch with family and friends and let anyone know if they feel depressed.
Civilian speeches included one by state Assemblyman Marc Butler, R-Newport, who said a "simple thank you hardly seems adequate." He told the soldiers many countries don't understand the American spirit.
"It is truly an honor to be in the presence of such great servicemen, their family and their friends," Butler said. "Real heroes are found right here among us."
Butler praised the area soldiers who enlist and take on these wartime missions because of a "sense of love for their nation."
Jennifer Donovan, an aide for state Sen. Hugh T. Farley, R-Niskayuna, said he couldn't be present. She read from a statement, in which Farley imparted, "I wish you well in your rotation and look forward to seeing you in a year."
When all the speeches were over, it was time for what the ceremony was all about -departing soldiers meeting and embracing their loved ones and friends.
"I'm excited about serving my country," said Spc. Jason Webber, a gym teacher at McNab Elementary School in Gloversville. "We've been training."
Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at email@example.com.