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An Army farewell ceremony is as solemn as a call to war should be, and as brief as the time soldiers have to give to non-mission tasks on the eve of deployment.

Except for the hard soldiers hugging babies, it’s scripted and dry.

It is not trivial or emotionless.

At Baumholder’s Minnick Field Friday morning, 1st Armored Division soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, Division Artillery, the 90th Personnel Support Battalion and the 8th Finance Battalion at H.D. Smith Barracks looked up into packed stands.

“This is what is surprising me right now,” said Jane Thompson, whose husband Master Sgt. Jan Thompson, Headquarters, Headquarters Battery, Division Artillery, was on the field. “The amount of support of the community and families. It’s nice to see, and I know it means a lot to them. To look up here and see all these faces.

“And you’re not here for one soldier,” Thompson said. “You’re here for all of them.”

As the 13,500-strong division prepared to deploy to Iraq for a year, reality is setting in at 1st AD bases all over western Germany. At Baumholder on Friday morning, perhaps the strongest sentiment was resolve.

Even after 20 years in the military, “it doesn’t get any easier” saying goodbye, Jane Thompson said. “People always ask me that, but it doesn’t. If it does, you don’t need to be here.”

A military spouse who thinks it’s easy to watch her husband go to war is like a doctor who starts to get comfortable with death, she said: “It’s time to get out of that profession.

“It’s an Army life. It’s an Army life, and you chose it.”

Patricia Barclay’s husband, Staff Sgt. Barry Barclay, was in the field at Hohenfels Training Area when she found out he would be going on his first deployment.

“I bawled my eyes out,” she said.

Said her friend Rachael Emond, “Everybody knows that being a military wife is the toughest job in the world. Everyone knows that.”

Being a soldier is no cakewalk either, as division command Maj. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez reminded soldiers at both Baumholder and at 1st AD headquarters in Wiesbaden.

“Needless to say, the war’s not over,” Sanchez said, and 1st AD soldiers may see things “we’ve never imagined or trained for.”

If there was angst for family staying behind, most troops said they are ready to rock.

“I’m looking forward to it. I’m excited,” said Barry Barclay, a squad automatic weapon gunner with the 1st Battalion, 94th Field Artillery Regiment of Division Artillery.

“The biggest thing I want out of it,” Barclay said, “is the combat badge,” the Combat Infantry Badge soldiers call “The Mark of the Man.” The price is missing his 6-month–old son Quincy’s first steps while he’s gone.

While some younger wives talked about going back to the States to wait out the deployment, the wives of career soldiers are staying.

Folks back in the States have jobs and lives, said Beth Curran. “They don’t understand what you’re going through. But people here do!”

As Staff Sgt. Tim Curran, Division Artillery, joked about the desert — What does 140 degrees Fahrenheit feel like in Kuwait’s dry heat? “Like 140 degrees!” — his wife made plans to write a travel diary for him while she and their son, Corey, 9, see the sights.

“Are you kidding?” she said, “I’m in Europe, and the trip over here was free!”

Jane Thompson, too, is passionate that home is now Baumholder, not her native Texas. “My husband told me that. He told me that soldiers need a home to come home to.”

“That’s what they’re fighting for.”


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