Hundreds of members of the Florida Army National Guard gathered on Monday morning for a deployment ceremony before leaving Central Florida for the next year.
More than 600 members of the Florida Army National Guard's 2nd Battalion, 124th Infantry Regiment will deploy to the Horn of Africa in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Their first stop is Ft. Bliss, Texas for additional training before heading overseas.
Hundreds of family members attended the deployment ceremony to see their loved ones off. There were tight hugs, prayer circles and tears as they said their goodbyes.
"Today it really hit us. Got a bunch of anxiety, just a little overwhelmed about what to expect. We prepared as much as we can for what we have control over, but we still don't know what it's going to be and I know these next few weeks, it's really going to hit home and getting into our new routines and everything," said Alicia Baez, whose husband, Yavier Baez, is deploying for the first time.
Yavier Baez got emotional talking about leaving his wife, son and unborn child whom will enter the world while he's gone and be 5 months old by the time he comes back next year. But it's those memories to look forward to that many soldiers say keep them strong while overseas.
"I think about my family. I know they're waiting for me back home so I just go over there, do whatever they want me to do, take care of business and come home," said Guardsman Cody Workman.
The 2nd Battalion, 124th Infantry Regiment is going to Africa in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, the U.S. led fight against Al Qaeda and other Islamic militants in the region. The soldiers will conduct security operations for troops already in east Africa.
Gov. Rick Scott visited the deployment ceremony. He offered thanks and encouragement before going around and shaking each soldier's hand.