"Today we have gathered to salute the 935th Support Battalion, who put themselves in harm's way for the sake of their country," said U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt through a representative. "Our nation depends on her men and women in uniform. Your contribution is a vital piece of our national defense. We will keep you in our prayers."
Blunt was but one Show-Me State resident to bid farewell to the aviation battalion, as Remington's Entertainment Complex began filling with well-wishers more than two hours before the start of the official ceremony. Held on the 68th anniversary of the World War II D-day invasion of Normandy, France, the historic date was noted by Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon.
"Anyone with a sense of history knows the sixth of June is one of those red letter dates, and that carries particular significance in the legacy of the United State Army and for the men and women who have proudly worn its uniform," said Nixon, who presented the youngest deploying member of the unit with the state flag.
"It's an honor," said 18-year-old Private Randal Barnes, of the recognition. Barnes, of Mt. Vernon, said Army training received at Camp Clark in the weeks leading up to deployment prepared him for his mission.
"We trained on convoy operations, react to contact and Humvee rollover," said Barnes of instruction given by the Missouri Guard's Training and Evaluation Battalion. "I'm ready."
Barnes deploys with approximately 150 other southwest Missouri Soldiers who make up the aviation battalion.
"We will support the units of the Missouri Guard's 35th Combat Aviation Brigade, focusing on aviation maintenance, vehicle maintenance, medical operations, transportation, ammunition, distribution and communication operations," said battalion commander Lt. Col. Roger Bodenschatz.
The group will serve overseas contingency operations in southwest Asia until spring of 2013.
"The mission on which you are embarking is a highly important one. The role that you will play in the allied efforts in Afghanistan will better assure that this nation's people will be enabled to maintain their own security in the future," said U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill through a representative. "Further, your contribution will bring our nation closer to achieving success and stability in this volatile region of the world."