Holding his two young children Friday, Jason Cagle knew it might be a while before he would see his daughter Kaylee and 10-month-old son Kameron again. But, he also knew the reason would be worth it.
Cagle, a member of the Alabama U.S. National Guard Charlie company, spent the last few hours before his deployment to Afghanistan kissing his children, and his wife, good-bye.
This weekend marks his second active deployment in his 10-year tenure, and he said both have made for some trying — and exciting — times.
“Oh, there’s always something,” he said.
He and his wife Deidre were married just two weeks before his first deployment, and now he must leave behind his young family for his second overseas tour.
“They told us we were going, so we threw the wedding together in just a few weeks to get married before I left the first time,” he said with a laugh. “But now, for my second time, it really is a little different with the kids.”
Cagle is joined by nearly 100 soldiers in Charlie company being called up, and its the first time since World War II the 1st battalion has been sent out together, at the same time. Several of the company attended a community send-off late Friday morning at the Cullman County Fair Grounds.
“I want to thank the soldiers of Charlie Company,” CPT Heath Brown told the soldiers. “You are audacious, faithful and professional, and I’m glad to be your commander.”
For Sgt. Jeremy Birchfield, of Leeds, Friday’s festivities were only the latest in his 16-year career with the Guard. This marks his third overseas mission, and he said he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I originally joined the Army because my brother talked me into it,” he said. “But, I absolutely enjoy it. They always say if you find a job you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. That’s me, and I’m sticking with it. I’m excited to go, and ready to get the job done.”
Enterprise resident Lt. Mark Whitaker has been in the service for six years, though this weekend’s deployment will mark his first overseas mission. He admitted he’s excited — and maybe a little scared — but he said he’s proud to serve for his family.
“Service is a family tradition for me,” he said. “It goes all the way back to my grandfather.”
Spending time with her adult son Richard, Shirlee Russell was as proud as a mother could be Friday — and encouraged her son to keep the faith while overseas.
“There’s nobody as great as him,” she said. “We’re so proud.”
After leaving Cullman this weekend, Charlie company will report to a U.S. base before full deployment to Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.
* Trent Moore can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at 734-2131, ext. 220.