The sounds of bagpipes and drums, along with a parade of flag-bearing Patriot Guard Riders kicked off today’s Delaware Air National Guard Call to Duty Ceremony.
More than 200 airmen with the 166th Airlift Wing will deploy next week to Afghanistan and parts of Southwest Asia. While deployed, officials say the airmen will provide logistical and medevac support to soldiers and marines in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and New Dawn.
“It’s a little difficult. It’s my eighth time, but every time’s a little different,” said Senior Master Sergeant Joseph Boudwin.
Difficult for the airmen’s families as well. Boudwin’s expected to be overseas for about three months.
“I should be getting used to it because this is not the first time, but you still have the scary feeling, stress, all that,” said SMSgt Boudwin’s wife Mel.
“Families, you like your airmen and soldiers, are making your own personal sacrifice for this country. I want you to know that this country appreciates your courage and your strength. And to you airmen, I am humbled by your courage, dignity and your sense of patriotism and commitment,” sympathized Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden, whose son Beau deployed with the Delaware Army National Guard three years ago. Also in attendance, Sen. Chris Coons and Congressman John Carney.
Among those deploying, one airman received special recognition. Master Sergeant Jerry Virden, with the 166th Maintenance Group, was honored as the last serving Vietnam War veteran in the Delaware Air National Guard. This deployment to Afghanistan will be his last before retiring.
“Time snuck up and all of a sudden you got 40 years in and now it’s time to go,” said Virden.
The 166th Airlift Wing is comprised of the 166th Maintenance Group, 166th Operations Group and 142nd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron. The Guard says most of of the airmen will serve overseas for three months, with a smaller number serving longer tours.