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New Ulm Hosts Huge National Guard Send Off

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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.

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