This past weekend my family and I had the PLEASURE and HONOR to attend a Farewell Ceremony to 70 Soldiers who are being deployed to The Iraqi Freedom mission. Courtesy of the family and friends of the 403rd Civil Affairs Battalion, US ARMY, Mattydale N.Y.

To witness this LIVE, was an experience to remember for a lifetime. I mentioned to my wife and stepdaughter that there is nothing like real life, firsthand experience. The following gives you an idea of the range of emotions felt.

Immediate RESPECT when walking in the front door seeing the many soldiers in full uniform. I felt inspired as I shook many of their hands, thanking them for their service. Without them, perhaps I may not be able to have the freedom to share with you what I am typing here.

The procession began with The Colors of the Flags. Two soldiers carrying the flag, book-ended by two others with Army rifles. 70 soldiers lined up in format, standing at attention for the full hour. One by one, people spoke. First the commanders of the troops spoke of the trials and tribulations leading up to today. They explained that these 70 soldiers have completed 365 days of hard, intense training for the mission and task at hand. Confident and Strong, they are fully prepared to successfully carry out and complete their duty.

Next, various honored guests spoke. Most had the message of thanks and “Godspeed”( wish for a successful and prosperous journey in the face of danger) for the soldiers headed overseas . One specific comment caught my attention..... stating that only 1% of our population is enlisted in the military and actually fighting the war on terror. Thus, the people standing before us represent the HIGHEST one percentile in Patriotism for our country.

I teared up for the soldiers, knowing the risks they were about to incur. I empathized with the families remaining behind. I felt great pride in the 70 local young US citizens about to take on their task. Most had to be in the 18-27 age range. I felt very patriotic, just supporting them. I admired the courage of the soldiers, thinking what it would have been like for myself to enter the military some 25 years ago. The discipline, the chain of command, and the overall organization of the army was a mesmorizing to watch and worthy of incredible RESPECT.

The most attention catching aspect to me was the TEAM concept of the troops. For some reason, the commanders of the 403rd Battalion were ordered to stay behind here and not partake with their squad that they have trained together with, for the past 12 months. It was evident they wanted to be with their fellow comrades. It reminded me of an athlete who practices all year towards a common goal, then being told he/she cannot “travel with the team”.

My curiosity lead me to ask opinions from a few of the soldiers who were previously overseas. Until now, my information primarily has been fed from the media and what we see on TV. Who better to get real information than from the guys and gals on the ground that have been there and experienced it firsthand?

What I wanted to know was the following::

>> Do the people of Iraq LIKE us, and, are we WANTED over there? Of the soldiers I asked, the answer was a resounding….YES

>> Also nagging at my curiosity was if the SOLDIERS THOUGHT we were MAKING A DIFFERENCE over there. That also received another resounding………..YES

>> Lastly, I asked a few of the military if they really WANTED to go overseas into the “frey”, or, stay behind here safely in the confines of our country. The answer was a great one.
If I’m standing next to my wife.. the answer is…. stay here. Outside of that..... I know that my fellow comrades have been over there for a year or so, away from their families, and I’d like to go relieve them, so they can come home and see their loved ones. What a great TEAM player answer!

I walked away feeling proud of those soldiers. Proud of the country where I live. I felt good about myself being able to support the soldiers in what little way I could. The "LIVE, in-person lessons" will be remembered forever not only by myself, but for my wife and daughter.

Finally, if the opportunity comes up to witness a Ceremonial Support of Soldiers being deployed in your area…. go and experience it. You ll be glad you did.

Author's Bio: 

TA Smith is the founder and creator of
A graduate of UMASS, Amherst.
A former Dale Carnegie graduate.
Smith loves to golf, ski, read, walk his chocolate labs, and listen to jazz and country music.
Smith's motto: Work hard, have fun, help others and make people SMILE.