Around 3,000 National Guard and their family and friends packed Eden Prairie’s Grace Church for a deployment ceremony on Sept. 20.
The St. Paul-based 34th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade will send 700 soldiers to Kuwait and Iraq as part of Operations Spartan Shield and Inherent Resolve in December 2019 after two months at Fort Hood, Texas, according to a news release from the Minnesota National Guard.
“Now it’s hitting me,” National Guard soldier Samuel Peprah, of Burnsville, said after the ceremony as he mingled with family, friends and coworkers. He’s nervous, Peprah said, but was encouraged by remarks from Gov. Tim Walz, Democratic U.S. Sen. Tina Smith, State Rep. Bob Dettmer, R-Forest Lake, and various National Guard speakers. The soldiers preparing to deploy are from over 120 cities in Minnesota, including Bloomington, Minnetonka, Savage and Chaska.
“Seeking help when you need it − and we all need help from time to time − is a sign of strength,” Smith told the audience as she encouraged service members and their families to use the resources available to them as they confront the challenges of military service.
Gov. Walz reflected on his own time in the National Guard as he spoke about the unit’s upcoming mission.
“We don’t deploy for conquest or riches, we deploy for human dignity,” he said. “All that’s right in the nation is in this room.”