Members of the 228th Engineer Company stand in formation Sunday inside the Spring-Ford High School gymnasium in Royersford PA as they prepare to leave for a year-long deployment to Iraq.

ROYERSFORD PA – In their fourth deployment since 2001, members of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard’s 228th Engineer Company – bound for Iraq to keep roads and supply routes there clear for American forces – were offered a proud and occasionally tearful send-off Sunday (March 7, 2010) from Spring-Ford High School.

Brig. Gen. Joseph DePaul.

Their mission overseas will “be a hard one,” Guard Brig. Gen. Joseph DePaul acknowledged, but the year’s work will be made easier by reliance on one another, he told the more than 100 soldiers assembled in formation. “Take care of yourselves,” he said; “take care of your buddies, and take care of your families.”

American flags of all sizes waved inside and outside the gym as hundreds of well-wishers from across the state gathered for the emotional ceremony. Company commander Capt. Joseph Martinkis noted those in this deployment had been specially selected from as close as Royersford, Spring City and Pottstown, and from as far away as Pittsburgh, for their talents and skills needed in the coming mission.

The troops have been training for months, both at Guard locations near their homes and as a unit at Fort Indiantown Gap PA, Martinkis said. Their next stop is Wisconsin for further training before heading to Iraq.

Appreciative, proud, and sometimes tearful families, friends and community members packed into the gymnasium to offer best wishes.

Families, friends, veterans and community members packed the school’s gym, 350 S. Lewis Rd., Royersford PA, to offer their goodbyes and wishes for a safe return. They stood and applauded several times as speaker after speaker lauded their courage, readiness, and service to country. Spring-Ford High School singers provided the musical background to the day’s event with several numbers.

The Spring-Ford High School choir sang several numbers.

For some being deployed, this marks a second, third or fourth time they’ve responded to the call for duty in hostile territory. All volunteers, “they represent the citizen-soldier at its best,” area support group commander Col. Glenn Nissley said.

Veterans groups distributed handheld flags to hundreds in attendance.

The assembled company, its flag bearer at front, stands at attention.

Top photo by Billy Worrell

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