FESTUS, Mo. (KSDK) – The U.S. is steadily pulling troops out of Afghanistan, but one local unit is actually being deployed there.
The Missouri National Guard's 220th Engineer Company left Festus this morning for a nine-month tour of duty. They'll spend six months training in Texas and then head to the war-torn country to help bring down buildings used by the army and to help rebuild roads.
There were some tears, some smiles and lots of hugs as around 140 members of the 220th Engineer Company said goodbye to their loved ones.
For Cammie Gray, her son's deployment was a surprise.
"We weren't expecting this when he signed up," she said. "I'm proud of him."
Most of these men and women are bringing along small mementos to help keep them connected to home.
"I've got lots of pictures," Sgt. Danielle Siess said. "I brought along my bible as well."
Abigail Blucker was just a baby the last time her aunt was deployed. Now, nearly 10 years later, Abigail was there to see her aunt off once again.
"I think it's really cool to have my aunt as a soldier," she said.
Well-wishers lined the streets as the guard members rolled out of the armory and toward Lambert Airport. And they were cheered on nearly every step of the way.
Annette Rose already has plans for when her son Ian Holder gets back.
"Give him lots of hugs and kisses," she said. "I'm very proud."