Keokuk, IA – Hundreds of people showed up at Wright Field House at Keokuk High School on Friday. They were not there to cheer on their favorite team, but instead they were there to say goodbye to members of the Iowa National Guard.
The 832nd Engineer Company is being deployed to Afghanistan for one year. The send-off ceremony in Keokuk was one of many that will be taking place across the state.
Some people drove a great distance for Friday's event. Neal Riede made the trip from Davenport. He wants to make sure today's soldiers know they have the support of many people.
Riede is a Viet Nam War veteran who says soldiers from that era received little - if any - support from the community.
"My dad and mom saw me off at the airport and that was it," Riede said.
American flags lined the road to the armory in Keokuk and flags also lined sidewalks near the field house. They were put up by members of the Bushnell Patriot Flag Crew.
"We do it for our veterans," said Crew member Harvey Draughan. "We're all patriotic and we do it for our veterans."
Draughan said the Flag Crew was invited to the Keokuk ceremony.
The send-off ceremony included about a half-dozen speeches. Keokuk Mayor Tom Marion called the troops' families unsung heroes. He thanked them for their sacrifice.
Command Sgt Major David Tadman of the 224th Engineer Battalion of the Iowa National Guard told the troops they still have months of training ahead of them. He urged them to stay focused and remain alert throughout their deployment.
The Nauvoo Bagpipers led members of the 832nd Engineer Company into the field house and they led them out at the end of the ceremony. The soldiers filed past their families and friends, out of the field house and on to their assignment.
The ceremony ended as it began: with a standing ovation for the troops.