Pat Wenz of Bowling Green came to join her prayers with the families being separated.
Several hundred people turned out at Bowling Green High School's stadium yesterday morning to say good-bye to local National Guardsmen before they left for Fort Knox, Ky.
An hour later, young and old lined Poe Road and Main Street as two charter buses carrying the soldiers headed south out of town with a police escort.
“I think it's great that Bowling Green is doing this. It shows we care,” Mrs. Wenz said.
“It's nice to see the people show respect for the military,” said Amber Bates, an eighth grader who was among classmates from Bowling Green Junior High standing along Main Street.
Unlike the somber memorial services that followed the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the soldiers' send-off was punctuated with cheers and flag-waving.
The crowd broke out in applause as state Sen. Randy Gardner (R., Bowling Green) said “no job or responsibility can be as important as fighter for freedom or soldier for our country.”
Mayor John Quinn gave an impassioned speech rooted in his years at the high school as an American history teacher. He rallied the marching band and members of the crowd - many of them high school students - to shout, “Our cause is just” as he debunked each of the reasons critics have voiced about the U.S. decision to initiate airstrikes in Afghanistan.
“We support you today. We'll support you tomorrow. We'll be here when you come back,” the mayor said to the Guardsmen. “Because,” he said, then looked at the crowd.
“Our cause is just,” they shouted.
Several of the speakers reiterated the theme that the U.S. is going to war in the name of peace. Even the Rev. David Young of First Presbyterian Church said in his invocation, “We are mobilized not because we love war, but because we love peace.”
Capt. Kevin Lochtefeld, commander of Bowling Green-based Company B, 1st Batallion, 148th Infantry Regiment, thanked the community for its support. He said the local troops were headed to Fort Knox to continue training “and to prepare for future missions within the United States.”
Despite the reassurance the soldiers will not be sent overseas, parting was still difficult and tear-filled for many. There were hugs and kisses and lots of picture-taking.
Specialist John Spangler of Toledo held his daughter, Holly, 2, in one arm, a camera in the other. His wife and older daughter also came to say good-bye.
After a week of preparations at the local armory, Mr. Spangler said he was ready to go.
“Duty calls,” he said simply.
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