About 160 U.S. Army Reserve troops boarded three charter buses at the 946 Transportation Company Savannah Road headquarters to start the first leg of their journey to Afghanistan.
Family and friends of troops gathered July 9, hugging, kissing and saying, “stay safe,” but not saying goodbye.
Teresa Connor of Georgetown stood by watching as troops boarded the bus that her son Spc. Franklin Messick, had climbed aboard a few minutes earlier.
Connor stood with Victoria Messick, 22, of Laurel. Victoria and Franklin married June 30.
Nicholas Carmine, 17, Franklin’s best friend, also stood by, waiting for the bus to leave.
Connor, 48, said this is her 21-year-old son’s first deployment.
She said she has been told the deployment would be for no more than 400 days – that’s one year, one month and two weeks– but she doesn’t know where he is going in Afghanistan.
Waiting in the hot sun for Franklin’s departure, Connor and Messick daubed tears; Carmine looked as though he were in shock.
Asked what she is thinking, while quietly standing and waiting, Connor said, “I just want them to get there and get home.”
“I just miss him already. It’s just hard to have him gone for so long,” Messick said, her voice soft and sad.
Carmine said he and Franklin “pretty much grew up together.” “It just won’t be the same. I hope he gets home safe,” he said.
Asked what they would say to mothers and wives who might have loved ones departing for a war zone in their future, Connor said, “Just pray for them to come home safe.” Messick added, “They need a good support system.”
What kind of guy is Franklin? “The best. The best,” his mother said. “He loves fishing, and he loves his dog, Summer, a yellow retriever.”
Army company spokesman Staff Sgt. Jason Vasquez couldn’t say anything substantive about the departing troops. “It’s for their safety and the safety of the nation,” he said.
Asked how long the troops would be deployed, Vasquez said, “That information, sir, we cannot give to you because of operation security.”
Asked what states the departing troops are from, Vasquez said, “Again, sir, for operation security we cannot let you know that information.”
He also said he could not divulge from where the troops would depart for Afghanistan. “Sir, that’s something for operation security. Again, I apologize, we cannot tell you that.”
Asked what he is allowed to say about the troops Vasquez said, “The individuals who just boarded the buses are American heroes. They fight for and serve this great nation and they fight and serve so that everybody at home enjoys their freedoms. That’s what we can tell you, sir.”