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Emotional Goodbye for National Guardsmen

LEXINGTON, Okla. — It was an emotional goodbye Sunday for 39 national guardsmen and their families.

The soldiers, who are part of a battalion nicknamed the Okie Air Pirates, were part of a farewell ceremony as they get ready to be deployed to Afghanistan.

The ceremony took place Sunday morning in Lexington at the Army Aviation Support Facility.

“Deployment ceremonies are bittersweet events.  A mixture of tremendous pride and heaviness of the heart,” said Brigadier General, Robbie Asher.

“I just got back from Afghanistan last March and found out that they needed a flight medic because a guy had some health issues so I stepped up and got lucky enough to get the slot,” said Nathan Koivisto.

These national guardsmen fly Blackhawk helicopters and their mission is a dangerous one.

“The primary mission pretty much is being a dedicated medical platform where we go out there, pick up the soldiers and bring them pretty much out of harm’s way and just clearing the battlefield of the wounded,” said Captain Christopher Lackey, 2-149th commander.

“I got a lot of loved ones here that I’m gonna miss and are missing me but you know we’re well trained, I’ve been trained by the best pilots in the world with the best army in the world … I know I’m coming home safe to my wife and my loved ones,” said Daniel Johnson.

The soldiers are having a hard time leaving family behind, but at the same time, they’re ready and willing to do their job.  “It’s one of the most rewarding you can have in the military – to go out and save someone’s life and get them where they need to be,” said David Tillman.

The soldiers will be leaving first for Fort Hood, Texas, where they will receive additional training.

They will be deployed to Afghanistan later this year.

Their deployment is expected to last approximately nine months.