Solemn crowd sends off South Dakota Guard unit for deployment
By KELDA PHARRIS | (Aberdeen, S.D.) American News | Published: September 2, 2019
ABERDEEN, S.D. (Tribune News Service) — “There is no safe place until you are back home.”
It was a solemn message from Maj. Gen. Jeff Marlette as he addressed a crowd of about 1,000 people Sunday in the gymnasium at Central High School.
It was the deployment ceremony for the 114 soldiers with the South Dakota Army National Guard’s Alpha Battery, 1-147th Field Artillery Battalion and 147th Forward Support Co. They’re headed first to Texas and then on to Europe for training exercises for the next 10 months as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve.
Attendees were greeted by the South Dakota Patriot Guard Riders. Each had unique regalia — leathers, patriotic patches and hats — that indicated their service. It’s a motorcyclists’ group that often attends funerals by invitation for military members and first responders killed in the line of duty. On Sunday, they performed a different service.
“We’re putting up a flag line to show our respect and honor to our guys that are gonna leave the country here in a little while,” said Dennis Holmlund of the group.
Holmlund, a veteran of the Navy who served from the late 1960s to 1970, had a simple request of those being deployed: “Be safe and come home in one piece.”
Although the men and women are not destined for combat zones, their safety and security were addressed over and over by the speakers at the afternoon event. Those speakers included Gov. Kristi Noem, who is commander-in-chief of the South Dakota National Guard, Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., and other South Dakota National Guard members.
Noem’s father, Ron Arnold of rural Hamlin County, also served in the South Dakota National Guard, and she said she felt Sunday’s ceremony was very much a family affair as her husband and three children sat opposite her in the arena.
The state and federal officials each took their turns addressing the crowd, along with Aberdeen Mayor Travis Schaunaman. They all expressed their pride and gratitude for the Guard’s service. There was a low din of children’s voices peppered with babies’ fussiness. It knocked home the point that there would be spouses and parents flying solo for the immediate future, but the sacrifice and service would be shared by all.
Marlette revealed some interesting facts about the 114 people who will be deployed:
• It is the second deployment for 44 of them.
• It is the third deployment for 25 of them.
• Those deployed represent 40 communities in South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa.
• At least 100 employers are supporting the men and women.
He went on to express that as the families make do while their loved ones are away, they should reach out to available services like the family readiness support group.
About half of the troops are with the Aberdeen-based Alpha Battery. The others are with the Watertown-based 147th Forward Support Co.