AURORA, Colo. — More than 100 Colorado National Guard members are saying goodbye to their families as they prepare to deploy to the European country of Kosovo.
The soldiers from the 135th Aviation Regiment were honored at a farewell ceremony Thursday afternoon at Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora.
About 130 soldiers will spend the next year in Kosovo conducting air assault, casualty evacuation and combat support alongside NATO forces.
They will also help local authorities during the upcoming wildfire season in that part of Europe.
It may seem like a peaceful deployment, but Colorado National Guard leaders reminded the soldiers that the Balkans can be a hot spot.
“There was a pretty bad war there, and there’s still a lot of (land) mines there. People get hurt. People get sick. So we’ll be doing medevac operations 24-7 while we’re there,” said Lt. Col. Kenneth Walsh.
“I’ve never been out of the country before, so it’ll be a fun new experience,” said 23-year-old Corp. Kelley Bowers of Aurora.
Others in the group are veterans of multiple deployments.
“I was in Afghanistan for six months and then I was able to be home with my family for probably about 40 days. And then we’re heading out to Kosovo for 11 months,” said Stanton Walker of Cedaredge, who credits his supportive wife for allowing him to take part in the operation.
“It’s that thing you see in military people. We always know that guy who’s done more than us, so we always feel like there’s more that we can do,” said Capt. Rob Bingham, a commander of one of the units deploying.
And they are always willing to do it.
“We are there in the interests of our national security. We will come back more ready than we’ve ever been. And we will come back safe,” Walsh said.