DOVER, Del. - Nearly every seat inside the football stadium at Delaware State University was full as family and friends came to wish to their loved ones a final farewell before they head overseas for the next 12 months.
Hundreds of soldiers with Delaware's Army National Guard are preparing to deploy to Afghanistan.
As soldiers marched their way onto the field, the crowd shouted out names of loved ones.
"This battalion standing before us this morning is 324 soldiers strong," said Major General Frank Vavala, Adjutant General of the Delaware National Guard.
Members are deploying in support of 'Operation Enduring Freedom.'
For family members like Melanie Marshall of Millsboro, deployments never get any easier.
"It feels as gut-wrenching as the first," said Marshall.
"This is her husband's third deployment.
Sgt. Aaron Marshall says he's thankful technology has improved so he can stay in contact with his family.
"I remember back in basic training I only had the ability to talk to my family over the telephone and write back and forth to them. Now I can actually Skype them," said Aaron Marshall.
The Marshall's say it's a challenge preparing their three young children for the absence of dad.
"There's not much you really can say to a 7-year old that they'll understand without the why questions," said Melanie Marshall.
The Marshall's kids are ages 7, 3 and 7 months.
During the ceremony, dignitaries like Senator Tom Carper spoke to troops about war and the impact of the September 11th terrorist attacks.
"That threat raised its head for many of us. It became apparent, clearly apparent, unforgettably apparent because it was hatched in a place called Afghanistan," said Carper.
Marshall's parents say they see an end to this war.
"Even the people that live in Afghanistan, they want an end to it. I think if enough people want an end to it, it will end," said Kathy Marshall of Lincoln.
For now, family and friends are praying for their safe return.
"We wish the best for the whole signal battalion, the whole battalion, and may they come back and may they all come home safe," said Tom Marshall of Lincoln.
As the ceremony came to a close, the crowd shouted the words 'Thank You' and 'God Speed.'
Two words that will ring loud and clear to soldiers across the nation.
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