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Oregon Guard case colors for deployment
haul sign
A family member holds up a sign with on of the unit's motos. - photo by Photo by Frenchi Jones
Sweat dripped from the foreheads of the friends and relatives of Oregon National Guard soldiers late Friday morning as the crowd of nearly 500 filled the stands of Fort Stewart’s Cottrell Field for the 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team’s casing ceremony.
The ceremony signified the completion of the brigade’s six-week training phase at Fort Stewart and marked the beginning of the brigade’s 12-month deployment to Iraq, where it will provide convoy security and support for U.S. forces currently serving in the Middle-eastern country.  
Jessica Hittle said she traveled more than 2,848 miles and left her five children at home for the chance to say goodbye to her brother, Spc. Jeremy Burke.
“Our dad passed away in 2007 and we’re all that we have left,” she said. “I’m scared that he won’t come home, but I stand by him 100 percent because I am very proud of who he is and what he does. I would not miss this for anything in the world.”
Maj. Gen. Tony Cucolo, the 3rd Infantry Division’s commanding general, shared the blue and white patch on the field with the National Guard command team, as the team’s commander, Col. Dan Hokanson, cased the unit’s colors.   
On hand for the occasion was Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski, Oregon’s two-star general, Maj. Gen. Raymond Reese, and Maj. Gen. Michael Bednarek, commander of the First Army Division East.
Bednarek, who oversees the work of the 188th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, a reserve and active duty training unit responsible for instructing the National Guard brigade, stirred up the crowed by asking them to stand if they had a loved one on the field who they were proud of.
“This is absolutely impressive,” he told the crowd.
To the soldiers, Bednarek spoke in the native tongue of the Iraqis.
“You have learned your lessons well,” he said in Arabic and then in English. “The bottom line is … I am confident you will be excellent in every mission that you will have.”
Kulongoski shared his state’s sentiments with the troops. He said it was his fourth time saying goodbye to the men and women of the brigade.
“Your governor knows that words could never adequately express the gratitude the state of Oregon has for you,” Kulongoski said “Saying goodbye does not get easier with practice,” he continued, “That is true for me and that is certainly true for your family and friends. I will pray that God keeps you until the day that you see those banners that say, ‘welcome home heroes of the 41st brigade.’ ” 
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