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By Cpl. Dasianelle Cotton, 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

Some 300 Soldiers from the 34th Division Sustainment Brigade and the 433rd Signal Company based in Chicago’s northwest side were mobilized for a year-long mission in the Middle East on Saturday, Jan. 27, during a ceremony at the Wintrust Arena in Chicago.

About 1,200 family and friends of the Soldiers were joined by Governor JB Pritzker, U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth, U.S Representative Delia Ramirez, and Maj. Gen. Rodney Boyd, the Assistant Adjutant General - Army of the Illinois National Guard and Commander of the Illinois Army National Guard.

“I take special pride in being your commander in chief. Your readiness is second-to-none in the nation. The soldiers here today represent the pinnacle of service to our state and our country. It is a commitment that sets an example for us all,” Governor Pritzker said.

“Today, we send over 300 of Illinois’ best overseas to serve our state and our country,” Governor Pritzker added. “To the families and loved ones of those departing today: I want you to know that I recognize your sacrifice and your heartache as well, even as you join me in honoring the strength and dedication shown by our Guard. Our support of you does not end today.”

The Governor presented a State of Illinois Flag to the deploying Soldiers to fly over their overseas headquarters.

Sen. Duckworth, a combat Veteran and Illinois Army National Guard retiree, spoke of our American service members dedication through history and outlined recent events in U.S. Central Command’s area of responsibility where the units will deploy. She expressed her thankfulness for the Soldiers’ commitment to our nation.

“All of you today are taking on an important responsibility as you answer the call of service and duty,” Duckworth said. “We are in awe of your bravery and thankful for your commitment to our country. I know today you’re likely feeling a range of emotions, but above all, I hope today you feel proud. Proud that you’ve chosen this path of service. Proud of the work you have ahead of you. And proud of your country.”

U.S. Rep. Ramirez represents the 3rd District of Illinois, which includes the units’ armory on the corner of Humboldt Park in Chicago. Many of the deploying Soldiers live and work in the communities around the armory.

“As the representative of IL-03 and Member of the House Veterans’ Committee, I know how significant today’s mobilization ceremony was for the members of the 34th Division Sustainment Brigade and the 433rd Signal Company, their families, and their communities. Today, 300 service members from Illinois, including so many of my very own constituents, demonstrate their devotion to serving our communities,” said Congresswoman Ramirez. “I commend their courage, dedication, and passion and wish them and their families safety and fulfillment in this journey.”

Maj. Gen. Rodney Boyd told the Soldiers that they are about to do “extraordinary work” which they have trained hard to do throughout their military careers. He told the Soldiers to keep the “lines of communication open” with their families.

“Check on them. Call them. Listen to them. They need for you to listen,” General Boyd said. He also told the Soldiers to “trust and respect each other” and to “come back a better person,” he added.

“Every now and then you get to do something great for this country… “You’re ready. You’re ready. Show time!,” he said.

Col. Eric Smith, the commander of the 34th Division Support Brigade, named each of the command teams that will accompany him and the brigade’s command sergeant major, Command Sgt. Maj. Heather Blakeman, overseas.

“I introduced them for two reasons. One, so you will know who they are. And, two, to let you know that we are all leaving behind loved ones as well. We feel you. We will bring them back as soon as possible as better Soldiers - as better humans.”

Col. Smith thanked the Soldiers and their families. “This is the fourth deployment since 2014 for this brigade, but for many Soldiers, this is the first all-inclusive, paid vacation. For others standing in formation, it’s your second, or third deployment and beyond, and I know the Soldiers and the families and friends are a little excited, but with that excitement also comes apprehension and maybe even a little anger, and that’s ok,” Col. Smith said.

“For all the friends, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, wives, husbands, and even moms and dads in this audience and in formation, pound your chest and be proud - be proud that you answered our nation’s call because not everyone is able nor willing to do just that, but you did. I

thank you and your families for your continued sacrifice, enduring yet again, months of separation. I will tell you that after 34 years and this being my third deployment, it doesn’t get

any easier. While we may not have the luxuries of living at home, it’s you, all of you moms and

dads and grandmas and grandpas, brothers and sisters, friends and relatives, that sacrifice the

most. You will now bear the burden of doing it all - taking care of the children, the pets, chores

around the house, finances, the list goes on. At times, you will face what seems to be an unsurmountable mountain but do realize that you are not alone, and countless resources are

available,” he added.

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