As casualties are mounting in Afghanistan, a National Guard unit from North Texas is preparing to deploy there for one year. June was the deadliest month of the war for soldiers from the U.S. and abroad.
An official send-off was held Sunday at TCU's Daniel-Meyer Coliseum for about 130 troops based in Irving. The women and men of the 176th Engineer Brigade are ready for combat.
"Of course, it's very hard on the families. It's very hard on the individuals, but this is a time for honor because we're honoring the people of our country that are serving to protect their freedom," Staff Sgt. Archeila Walker said. "And we're doing good things overseas."
That's the feeling that runs through the soldiers. And applause erupted inside the gymnasium not only for them but also for the families supporting them, who have cried plenty of tears.
Nicole Williams will be waiting for her fiance to return so they can get married on November 12, 2011.
"She's kind of nervous," Spc. Keith Sutherland said. "This is the first time she's had me go away like this."
To that, Williams said, "It's not just you going away. It's where you're going" -- into the unknown dangers of a war zone.
"I don't want to leave her side. That's for sure. I just want to let her know I will be home. There's no if's, and's, or but's about it. I will be home," Sutherland said.
The soldiers have been preparing for their mission for the past year. It's their first deployment as a unit, but some have already served in Kosovo and Iraq.
"Yes, I'll be fearful, but I'll also be a strong individual," Walker said.
The unit leaves Tuesday. They'll be doing engineering work for roads and buildings in eastern Afghanistan.