CONCORD — New Hampshire sent off seven National Guardsmen in a small ceremony Saturday. It is the fourth time the small detachment has deployed to the Middle East since 2007.
“Few in the New Hampshire National Guard have deployed more than these soldiers have,” said Steven Veinotte, a chaplain with the New Hampshire Army National Guard.
The short ceremony was held in a hangar in Concord. About 50 family members sat listening to Veinotte and four other National Guard officers, as other uniformed National Guardsmen stood around the edge of the hangar.
Brig. Gen. Shawn M. O’Brien, commander of the New Hampshire Army National Guard, noted the seven guardsmen deploying had all served at least one other deployment. Together, they had been deployed 16 years, he said.
Before the ceremony started, Sgt. 1st Class Gregg Chapman of Manchester bounced his red-headed 4-year-old, Noah, on his hip. Chapman has not deployed since Noah was born, but he has had to travel for training.
“We know what it’s like for Dada to be away,” he said. Leaving his son and pregnant wife, Julie, is hard, he said. But he knows they will be cared for while he is gone.
“They’ll be in great hands while I’m away,” Chapman said.
Noah held a stuffed lamb and nuzzled his father.
The seven members of the New Hampshire Army National Guard’s Fixed Wing, Detachment 18 Operational Support Airlift, will head to Fort Bliss, Texas, this week for mobilization training. From there, the group will go to Afghanistan. They will work out of the Bagram Air Field, transporting military passengers and cargo across medium distances, according to a news release from the New Hampshire Army National Guard.
“Your mission is significant,” Col. Eric B. Hogancamp, commander of the 54th Troop Command, told the seven men.
James F. Ormond, the detachment’s commander, said it is hard to leave family for the 9-month deployment, hard to miss big events in their families’ lives. But there’s also a certain amount of excitement about getting to work, he said.
“Most of us would rather get the clock started, and just get going,” he said. “There’s a range of emotions you go through.”
As the chaplain and officers spoke for a few minutes, the guardsmen’s families sat, some bouncing their knees and smiling with a little clench in their jaws. The New Hampshire Army National Guard band played The Army Song. The men singing along were drowned out by the brass band in the hangar.
After the ceremony, a dozen children descended on a table of chocolate chip cookies sitting near a white C-12 plane, like the one their fathers will fly in Afghanistan.
Lindsey Santana of Bow sat with her daughters Natalie, 8, and Laura, 6, clad in matching blue dresses to see their father off. Santana smiled when asked if it was hard when her husband left, and said it was a necessary sacrifice.
“This is not the first time they’ve had their dad go on a trip,” she said, saying that her husband deployed to Iraq a few years ago. “We’re proud of our pilot.”