CARBONDALE (WSIL) – Tuesday was a day of hugs, tears and goodbyes for families of National Guard members bound for Afghanistan.
Units from Marion, West Frankfort, Mt. Vernon, Effingham and Litchfield gathered at SIU's Banterra Center for a send-off ceremony.
They're known as the Blackhawks -- the 2nd Battalion, 130th Infantry Regiment -- headquartered in Marion.
Soon, they will serve as a security detail, guarding U.S. and NATO assets.
For many, it's their first trip overseas, but they say they're ready.
"It's a lot of excitement, a lot of nerves as well, but as was covered today, we've been training for a long time, so I'm really excited to go out and see what we can do,” said Garrett Bowen of Carbondale.
"A little anxious, a little nervous, excited and ready to get over there and see how we're gonna operate. I feel like we're prepared and ready for the deployment," said Trenton Byrd of Harrisburg.
But as these soldiers depart, they leave behind loved ones who must carry on without them.
"Mixed emotions really, a bit of excitement because it's kind of adventurous, but also sadness because you're leaving behind your family and your community I care a lot about," explained Sgt. Joshua Rodley of West Frankfort.
Families like the Giacones have been through this three times before.
"It's hard, it's going to be really hard," says Britney Giacone.
Britney knows that from experience, but she's thankful for a great support system.
"I've got a lot of support. From both of our parents, both sides of the family, siblings, we have a lot of support."
These soldiers are well aware of what their families are going through, but they also know they have a job to do.
"They're pretty anxious, scared, but it's part of it, they knew the risks when we signed up," says Byrd.
"My family's pretty prepared for it having gone through it with my eldest brother, so it'll be pretty good, I think overall," adds Calvin Marshall of DeSoto.