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45th Fires Brigade honored before deployment

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About 800 men and women from the 45th Fires Brigade will be deploying for Operation Iraqi Freedom. About 800 men and women from the 45th Fires Brigade will be deploying for Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Over 6000 people packed the Ford Center to show their support. Over 6000 people packed the Ford Center to show their support.
Governor Brad Henry spoke at the ceremony in the Ford Center. Governor Brad Henry spoke at the ceremony in the Ford Center.

By Jacqueline Sit, NEWS 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Saturday was a day of emotional goodbyes as family and friends gathered to say farewell and honor and support a group of departing troops.

Over 6000 people packed the Ford Center to show their support for the National Guard's 45th Fires Brigade.

About 800 men and women from the 45th Fires Brigade, headquartered in Enid, will be deploying for Operation Iraqi Freedom.

"Just for the pride and honor of serving this country, I just want my kids to be able to say ‘my daddy was a hero," said Crystal Thompson, whose husband is being deployed.

Specialist Custis Thompson said he's trying not to let parting with his family overwhelm him.

"I need to be strong for my kids. I won't be able to see them. I'll be a long ways away. I think with the strength of God and family we'll pull through," said Specialist Thompson.

The brigade will be spending 2 to 3 months in Fort Hood, Texas training for convoy security missions, and preparing the troops to defend the supply lines in and out of Iraq.

"We had months of notice and it seem like it's so far off and now it's gotten so close and time flew by in the last few weeks," SSGT. Jerod Windberry said.

Staff Sergeant Jerod Windberry and his wife Jennifer took time off from work and spent every day together with their two little boys last week.

Jennifer Windberry still admits she's not ready for farewells.

"He's ready to serve his country. He's waited a long time and he's been in 10 years, so he's ready, more ready than I am," Windberry said.

Private first Class Joseph Jackson, a recent high school graduate, is more than ready for deployment.

"I'm proud and excited to serve my country," Jackson said.

With the support of his family, his mother said she couldn't be more proud of her hero on the home front.

"I don't think it'll actually sink in until he's actually gone. I think they leave on Tuesday and I'll be a big ol' bundle of nerves, but I'm excited," Melissa Jackson said.

Governor Brad Henry was also at the ceremony and he said he looks forward to the troops' safe return home.

"Thank you for the dedication and duty, your courage and strength and character, for the deep and abiding commitment you made to Oklahoma and the United States," Governor Henry said.

The Brigade will start moving to Fort Hood, Texas on Monday for training.

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