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Sendoff for the Idaho National Guard Submitted by Don Lopez

Cities all around this great nation have said their goodbyes to the young men and women of their local Guard and Reserve units on their way to Iraq in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Even though I have watched other small and large American cities do this, it really strikes home when it is your own hometown. There is something about looking at those kids face-to-face, knowing where they are headed and what's in store for them. It also hits home when you see the families and listen to the the family assistance representative talk about the help that will be available to families while their loved ones are deployed to the Middle East.

As a 20 year veteran of the US Army, I know what their trials and tribulations are going to be. I can feel their pain. You can't help but have a lot of pride in them and our great country they are serving. When I arrived at Ross Park which sits adjacent to the Pocatello Zoo, I was still seething over the beheading of Paul Johnson Jr. in Saudi Arabia today. As the national anthem was playing and Pocatello's own 148th Artillery's 1st Batallion colors were presented, I began to put the Paul Johnson story in perspective. My pride was clearly not just for these individual soldiers but for the patriotism and valor they represent. Like all the soldiers before them, they have answered the call. They will leave spouses and children behind, suffer financial hardships and put their lives on hold. They will soon be in harm's way putting their lives on the line for our country. When you look at this dedication you can rest easier knowing that this collective will is bound to prevail in the war on terrorism in the same way it has risen to all of the challenges this country has faced in the past.

Today, it was Pocatello's turn to say goodbye to its young soldiers who are leaving in two weeks on their way to Iraq. To the soldiers, I wish you godspeed and good luck. It is your turn to carry the torch.

May we all keep the forward deployed troops in our thoughts and prayers.

Don Lopez