Vermont National Guard deploys six hundred in emotional sendoff

Sixteen Norwich University students were recently called to active duty by the Vermont National Guard (VNG). On the morning of November 19, 2004, they joined six hundred fellow guardsmen and women in an emotional send-off at Norwich University, commencing the largest VNG deployment in history.

In a packed Shapiro Field House, sons and daughters took leave of their parents, mothers and fathers hugged their children goodbye, and husbands and wives embraced for what could be the last time in perhaps 18 months. Tearful relatives held up signs and waved American flags in a show of support for those being deployed.

Norwich President Richard W. Schneider opened the ceremony by welcoming the guardsmen and their loved ones to Norwich, before addressing the troops.

"…You are going, so our families here at home can be safe…I couldn't be more proud of what you are doing," said President Schneider.

Commander in Chief of the Vermont National Guard, Governor Jim Douglas, also addressed the soldiers, who stood in formation with their respective battalions.

"While we're reluctant to see you off, we're confident that you'll accomplish your mission with the greatest distinction, because you are among our bravest and most dedicated," Douglas said.

VNG Major General Martha T. Rainville, U.S. Senators Jim Jeffords and Patrick Leahy, and Congressman Bernie Sanders all delivered brief remarks, making frequent references to the "Green Mountain Boys" and their distinguished history of service to the nation.

Following the ceremony, Guard members had an opportunity to say their final goodbyes to family and friends before boarding buses and heading for Burlington Airport. As the procession spilled out of Shapiro Field House, repeated cannon blasts from twin pack howitzers saluted the troops.

The Vermont troops will spend several weeks training at Camp Shelby in southeast Mississippi before being deployed overseas.

The 16 Norwich University students are: Warren Alexander, Aleksey Androsov, Angelina Androsova, Casey Bell, Kevin Clarkson, Calvin Farrell, Felix Fernandez, Brent Gaines, Ryan Gallagher, Jason Gordon, Jason Keeter, Scott McGrath, Christopher Tanguay, Ryan Watari, Matthew Wells, and Ryan White. All are members of the 86th Brigade. In addition, 30 more Norwich students have been put on warning order for deployment in 2005.

dweggler@norwich.edu, November 2004

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