The Mount Shasta High School gymnasium was filled with more than 500 well-wishers, and several speakers gave the 16 departing Siskiyou County soldiers a warm send-off.

American flags were waved with patriotic enthusiasm and plenty of tears were shed Saturday morning as the community gathered to say farewell to local soldiers who left for a year-long deployment to Afghanistan.

The Mount Shasta High School gymnasium was filled with more than 500 well-wishers, and several speakers gave the 16 departing Siskiyou County soldiers a warm send-off.

Each of the morning’s speakers, including Home Guard founder Dan Dorsey, Sheriff Jon Lopey, County Supervisor Grace Bennett, Mount Shasta Mayor Russ Porterfield and Dunsmuir Mayor Arlis Steele praised the soldiers for their sacrifice and dedication to their country, reminding them that while they are overseas, the community will be there to support their families.

“We’ll stand behind you,” Porterfield told them. “You’ll always be in our thoughts and prayers... we’ve got your back.”
“These soldiers are truly special,” added Lopey, who is a veteran who served time in the Middle East himself. “They are members of Siskiyou County families and they’re friends, co-workers, and neighbors. These soldiers are a part of us... Thank you for accepting the sacred trust and obligation of the soldier’s life... We pledge to honor and support you not just now, but always.”

Lopey pointed out these soldiers, who are a part of the 132nd detachment of the National Guard, will “contribute to the vital mission” to provide the Afghan people with freedom.

“Train hard, remember what you have learned, listen to your leaders be alert and vigilant at all times. You’re heading into harm’s way in what is likely one of the most contentious parts of Afghanistan,” Lopey told the soldiers sitting on both sides of him. “We pray for your safe and prompt return home. It has been a distinct honor and privilege being with you today. May God bless you, your families, and your friends, and God bless the United States of America.”
The 132nd detachment is a Multi Role Bridge Company. While overseas, they’ll be responsible for the building and maintenance of all the country’s bridges.

An emotional Steele, who is a retired member of the detachment and who served alongside many of the departing soldiers, told them he is “very proud.”

“I feel like should be getting ready to depart along with you,” Steele said, fighting back tears. “I look forward to the day when you roll back up the hill.”

Bennett said she is honored to have been able to address the soldiers, and said the large show of support is the reason she loves living in Siskiyou County.

“People ask why we live here, and we say things like the beautiful mountain, and the many things to do, but when you think about it, it’s the people who live here,” Bennett said.

Dorsey called attention to the many volunteers who will be there to help the soldier’s families when they are away. He said there are currently about 150 Home Guard volunteers, and he hopes that after the ceremony, there will be even more who want to lend a hand.

Also stepping in to add a heart warming touch to the ceremony was the Mount Shasta High School choir, directed by Greg Eastman, who sang “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” The Marine Corps League and American Legion presented and retired the colors, and Jessie Oliff, a veteran from the Wounded Warrior project, sang the National Anthem.
Members of the Scott Valley Quilters stepped forward to give each departing soldier a handmade quilt to take with them on their journey.

Quilter Betty Adkins said this is the first opportunity they’ve had to personally hand a quilt to the soldiers who would be enjoying them. Since 9/11, the group has made more than 1,000 quilts for America’s troops.

Home Guard chaplain Keith Bradley provided ceremony’s the invocation and departure prayer, and many sniffles could be heard as the crowd quietly bowed their heads.

Following the ceremony as everyone spilled into the chilly outdoors, a few small snowflakes were sputtering to the ground, and coffee and hot chocolate were available to keep hands warm. When the soldiers departed, they were sent off with resounding cheers, many hugs, and firm handshakes.

To learn more about becoming a Home Guard volunteer, call Dorsey at (530) 926-2528.