More than 160 North Carolina National Guard soldiers from the 514th Military Police Company in Winterville left for Guantanamo Bay Tuesday, where they will be deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom-GITMO.
The group of soldiers were escorted to Raleigh-Durham International Airport by the Patriot Guard Riders.
“We’re escorting these heroes to the airport where they’ll sendoff to defend our freedom, our constitution and our way of life,” said George Young a member of the Patriot Guard Riders.
Earlier this week, the soldiers deployed from the Pirate Club at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium in Greenville on Sunday.
They’re being tasked with providing various external security operations while in Cuba.
“It’s standard military police function,” said Sgt. Benjamin Bullard. “It’s exactly what it sounds like. It’s providing security.”
It’s in support of the ongoing mission of the joint detention group at Guantanamo Bay Naval Station.
This group of soldiers is expected back next summer.
As most can imagine, the time can’t come soon enough for their loved ones.
“I’m very proud of him, but also very nervous,” said Marissa Hunt. Hunt’s husband is deploying.
This will be their first deployment as a couple.
Edward Williams said this is his son’s third time away from home.
“I’m hoping that where he’s going isn’t as hostile as the first two places he went.”
While they’re away, it’s comforting to family and friends to know their soldier is in good hands.
“I know they’re going to take care of me, and I’m going to take care of them,” said Spc. Ebony Williams.
Pitt County Commissioner Glen Webb also attended Sunday’s ceremony. He presented a soldier in the unit with a Pitt County flag to fly at the base. It’s to serve as a reminder of home.
“Whenever you’re in situations like this, it really builds a deep brotherhood amongst the people that are participating. That’s inspiring because I have two very good friends in this unit, and as they go out that makes me feel they’re going to watch out for each other. They’re going to keep each other safe.”