News: 'Long Knife' soldiers bid bittersweet farewell to family, friends
Story by Spc. Angel Turner
FORT HOOD, Texas - Over the past few weeks, family and friends have gathered around to say their final farewells to deploying soldiers of the 4th Brigade, “Long Knife,” 1st Cavalry Division, here.
Having just returned from a yearlong deployment to Iraq last September, roughly a third of the brigade will be deploying to Afghanistan over the next few weeks.
For Staff Sgt. Ronald Reed, a multichannel transmission systems operator/maintainer assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 5th Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, this will be his third deployment in 11 years. Although he recently joined the “Long Knife” brigade after completing a tour in Korea, he remained optimistic about the mission.
“I feel this is the overall mission,” Reed said, a native of Pittsburgh. “Going there and leaving my family is one thing but actually accomplishing what we were set out to do in the first place—I believe in doing that.”
Reed will join many of his fellow soldiers on Security Forces Advise and Assist Teams to help enable Afghan Security Forces in independently and effectively securing their country.
Reed’s wife and two children joined him for a picnic-like setting as they embraced the final moments of the year with their deploying soldier.
“The day of leaving to me is the hardest part,” Reed stated. “That realization that you’re actually leaving besides the long flight and movement to the country is difficult for me.”
Deployments are not only difficult for soldiers but also for the families they leave behind.
Reed has been married to his wife for 11 years. Hidden behind her sunglasses, the emotions of the day became evident in her voice. Despite this, she remained optimistic.
“We got married four days before 9/11, Maria Reed stated. “Four days before 9/11, he told me he wanted to join the Army. Then when 9/11 happened he said he still wanted to join so we knew what to expect. It’s just something we have to deal with.”
Although her husband is leaving before the holidays, Maria stated, “We feel really blessed because he is there no matter if he’s far away or if we’re together. Being even more spiritually grounded will help my family this go around.”
For Pfc. Travis Prater, a cannon crewman, assigned to Battery A, 5th Bn., 82nd F.A. Regt., this is his first deployment.
Also new to the unit, Prater said, “I feel a little nervous but excited.”
“I wanted to leave [deploy] since I got here,” added Prater a native of Oxford, Ohio.
Prater’s dad and grandparents joined the many families that came to send their soldiers off.
“It’s nice to have their support, but it sucks to say goodbye,” said Prater as he glanced in the direction of his family.
Teary-eyed, Prater’s grandmother, Mary Tharp stated, “I’m extremely proud of him but at the same time I’m terrified.”
“My heart will be with him every day and I know he’s doing a wonderful thing. His desires to serve his country are like his grandfather’s. What can you do but be proud?”
With the deployment time reduced to nine months, families no longer have to endure a year away from their loved ones.
Tharp is already excited about seeing her grandson walk across Cooper Field next year. “We plan on being here. We saw them case the colors on Friday and we want to see it uncase next July. That’s our plan,” she said
Tharp added a message for all the troopers sacrificing time away from home. “Thank you for all that you are doing.”