By Dennis Douda, WCCO-TV

NEW ULM, Minn. (WCCO) — A celebration ceremony was held in New Ulm Saturday for hundreds of Minnesota guardsmen and women who will be leaving soon to serve in Iraq.

The guardsmen and women are a part of the 1st Battalion, 125th Artillery, and many of their family members shed tears as they thought about their loved ones heading into harm’s way.

The unit is part of the second largest deployment of the Minnesota National Guard since World War II. They’ll be gone for a year and their main responsibility will be security.

“It’s related to escorting convoys out of the country and moving equipment and troops out of the country,” said Lt. Col. Troy Soukup.

Soukup will command the troops, and while he’s in Iraq, his wife Melissa Soukup will hold down the home front. Like other Minnesota guardsmen and women, Soukup will miss birthdays, family get-togethers and the comforts of home.

“You really can’t pay anybody enough to do or give up the things that they are, but they do it for the sense of pride, for the service of the nation,” Soukup said.

While Soukup is with the troops, his wife will have to look after the couple’s four kids.

“Having him there every day, every night when we go to bed, so that’s hard, lying down being by myself and not having someone next to me,” Melissa Soukup said.

The unit will leave June 2 for training in Ft. McCoy, which is located in Sparta, Wis.

Comments (7)
  1. Sheila says:

    Thank You!!! to all of you, Peace and blessing to you and your familys.

  2. George and Dolores says:

    Our son-in-law is part of this. We are so proud of him and all of you. Thank you all for all you do to keep us all safe. May God bless you and bring you ALL back home to us soon.

  3. Joslyn Bentson says:

    My husband is on the far right 1st SGT Bentson:)

  4. Crystal Michelle Pici says:

    My husbands unit is deploying with this tour as well. We never knew about this big send off, unfortunately. Our men were also at Ripley and Anoka that weekend anyway, but it would have been great to go meet others. Looked like a great even to attend!

  5. Diane Thoms says:

    Our son was honored to carry the flag during this ceremony. The dedication these men and women show for their unit, families, and the Gaurd are second to none. I am so proud of our son and all the gaurd members. God Bless all of you for your selfless service.

  6. MS says:

    Crystal – if your husband is based out of Anoka, they will be having their own ceremony. I believe that it is the 15th of May. Good Luck!

  7. Melissa Pickar says:

    As hard as it is to find the positive in these last days together, knowing that my husband and his men are appreciated and thought of besides our family is comforting! Thank you for all the hard work on the family send-off weekend! A wonderful group of soldiers and an amazing group of families to support them! We are PROUD to be amongst them!

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