Nearly 400 soldiers sent off to Afghanistan

    Friends and relatives join the National Guard's 2nd Battalion, 127th Infantry for a sendoff ceremony Nov. 29, 2018, at Lambeau Field. The unit is being deployed to Afghanistan. (WLUK/Gabrielle Mays)

    GREEN BAY, Wis. (WLUK) -- Nearly 400 soldiers with the Appleton-based 2nd Battalion, 127th Infantry will be deployed to Afghanistan.

    A send-off ceremony was held Thursday at the Lambeau Field Atrium.

    A roar of applause and cheers echoed through the room.

    "You see, every soldier you see right here is 100 percent American soldier. Proud to be part of our United States Army," said Maj. Gen. Don Dunbar.

    The cheers came from the many family members who wish each solider has a safe deployment and mission.

    "This will be my husband's second deployment. He was deployed in '09 to Iraq," said Nicole VandenBranden.

    She brought her two daughters Lillian and Johanna to the sendoff.

    "We're gonna keep giving him cuddles and keep giving him some love," said Lillian VandenBranden.

    "We're going to send him letters and try to keep calling him and talk to him a lot," said Johanna VandenBranden.

    "2018 marks the Red Arrow's second century of service and this deployment opens a new chapter of Red Arrow history as the 127th becomes the first Red Arrow unit to deploy to Afghanistan," said Capt. Joe Trovato, master of ceremonies.

    While most are leaving their family, soldiers like Sgt. Brett Hefty also say they still have each other.

    "In the short period of time we've been training, it comes pretty quick together that we come together as family," said Sgt. Brett Hefty.

    Even though the soldiers will be thousands of miles away, here's one message they heard over and over again.

    "It's an awesome responsibility and I couldn't be prouder of these men and these women," said Maj. Gen. Don Dunbar, Wisconsin’s Adjutant General.

    "We're proud of him, he's our hero," Nicole VandenBranden said.

    Thursday marked the third military sendoff at Lambeau.

    The soldiers are scheduled to return home late fall 2019.

    The National Guard shared the following information about the 2nd Battalion, 127th Infantry:

    • About 20 percent of the unit previously deployed
    • For many in that 20 percent that previously deployed, this is their third or fourth combat rotation
    • 32 percent are married and almost 68 percent are single
    • 2018 marks the centennial of World War I, where the 127th Infantry played a starring role in the 32nd's four major campaigns during the war
    • The 32nd pierced every enemy line it encountered in France, earning its now famous "Red Arrow" nickname, which depicts a red arrow breaching an enemy line

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